Humanitarian policy

Commitment to the principles of humanitarian action requires agencies to deliver assistance impartially, to focus on the most vulnerable and ensure they are included in assistance. This means everyone involved in humanitarian response has a responsibility to ensure all those affected, including older people, receive the assistance to which they are entitled.

Through our humanitarian work, we work with national and international actors to help them fulfil these commitments by supporting them to adapt their policy and programming to include older people. 

There needs to be a greater understanding of older people's needs in humanitarian policy.

(c) HelpAge International

There needs to be a greater understanding of older people's needs in humanitarian policy.

When emergencies strike, older men and women are some of the most vulnerable. They are over-represented in the numbers of people who die, and face specific challenges and risks in meeting their needs due to their age. 
It is increasingly recognised that older people’s needs are not being adequately addressed in emergencies. A major consultation conducted for the World Humanitarian Summit concluded there was a need to “correct the neglect of older people”.  

Working with humanitarians to address older people's needs

Addressing the needs of the most vulnerable, including older people, cannot be an afterthought, and HelpAge is working to contribute to overcoming the risks of marginalisation older people face.  
We have identified a number of areas in which change is most needed and are working with humanitarians to address these: 

1. Data and evidence

Currently many assessments conducted during emergencies do not collect or analyse data on the number of older people affected by a crisis, or consult older people about their needs. We work with others to improve data collection practices, and conduct our own assessments so we know how older people have been affected by crises. We also carry out research to fill gaps in current understanding of the needs and risks faced by older men and women. 

2. Capacity and guidance

For many humanitarians a lack of understanding of older people’s needs or knowledge of how to address them is a major challenge. We have developed technical guidelines  and training materials, and we deliver training and provide technical support. We also second our expert staff to other agencies to ensure they have the knowledge they need to support older people. Our Age and Disability Capacity Programme (ADCAP) is developing resources, and strengthening individual and organisational capacity to provide age and disability inclusive humanitarian response.

3. Funding and donor policy

We analysed over 16,000 humanitarian projects between 2010 and 2014 and found that less than 1% (154) had any activity specifically targeting older people. The results of this have been published in our report, End the neglect: a study of humanitarian financing for older people (2.46mb), To address this gap, we work with major humanitarian donors including DFID, ECHO, USAID and others, to support them to develop guidance for staff and mechanisms for assessing proposals that will ensure older people’s needs are not forgotten.  

4. Coordination of response

At global and country level, we work closely with UN agencies and National Governments responsible for the coordination of humanitarian response so they can ensure older people are not neglected in responses. We have seconded staff to the Global Food Security and Protection Clusters, and work closely with the Health and Nutrition Clusters. 
As a network HelpAge collaborates with a range of humanitarian actors to contribute to addressing older people’s needs. These partners include specialist disability agencies such as Handicap International and the Christian Blind Mission, members of the Red Cross Movement, including IFRC and ICRC, mainstream NGOs such as Islamic Relief, Concern World Wide and Christian Aid as well as members of the HelpAge Network.
The World Humanitarian Summit and the Inclusion Charter
The UN Secretary General set ambitious goals for the World Humanitarian Summit, calling for “change that inspires global leaders, international organisations and other stakeholders to assume their responsibilities with a greater sense of urgency and determination to deliver better for those who need it the most”. 
HelpAge has been leading a group of national and international NGOs to support the delivery of impartial and accountable humanitarian assistance that responds to vulnerability in all its forms (including children, youth, older people, people with disabilities). 
Our Inclusion Charter consists of five steps that can be taken by humanitarian actors to ensure that assistance reaches those most in need, and supports them to move out of crises and on to a path toward the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
To find out more and to add your agency’s support to the Charter, visit

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