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Serbia: Older people and emergency responses

02 Jul 2014

Red Cross volunteers helping out. It is a well-known fact that some groups are more vulnerable than others during emergencies. Older people can definitely be categorised as such. 

There are recommendations on how to help older people during emergencies, how to treat them, how to provide specific first aid, what shelter, food and medication they need, etc…

However, the recent floods in Serbia have demonstrated that older people can be very active in providing help to other vulnerable people.

Older people sprung into action to help their communities

By developing self-help groups for older people with support from HelpAge, the Red Cross of Serbia has strengthened the capacities of self-help groups' members and motivated them to help their local communities. Most of the self-help groups met spontaneously as soon as the information on the severity of the floods was made public.

Despite the fact that they are based in different cities, they communicated with each other to check and discuss the information from their own communities on the needs of older people affected by the floods.

Self-help groups in Kragujevac, Belgrade, Negotin, Pirot and others cities have been collecting information via telephone, talking to older people in flooded communities but also making personal field visits to older people trapped in their homes. During these field visits they collected information about the damage done to the houses and gardens of the affected people.

Older volunteers essential to relief efforts

Their activities do not stop there. After finishing the assessment of needs, the majority of self-help groups' members volunteered to assist with receiving, sorting, packing and distributing relief assistance. This work was split between young and old volunteers who would sort the clothes that had been donated and pack them into parcels, alongside food and hygiene items, to be distributed in other cities.

From the beginning of this emergency, older people have been involved with the relief efforts, including preparing food to be cooked in soup kitchens. The older people in the self-help groups followed all the necessary information regarding the procedures and chain of command and were able to provide adequate information for both people who needed assistance as well as donors.

They informed the local Emergency Headquarters about the needs of a less mobile older lady living alone in a partially flooded house, who was then visited by the assessment team. They were also very active assisting the telephone help programme volunteers in the Red Cross so the number of older people receiving psychosocial support was impressive.

Through this project we have achieved our goal which is to have older people as volunteers and respected community members provide invaluable assistance to the Red Cross of Serbia and people affected by emergency.

Find out more about how HelpAge works with older people in emergencies.

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Author profile


Natasa Todorovic
Country: Serbia
Job title: Health and Care Program Manager

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.