Minimum standards for age and disability-inclusive humanitarian responses launched


By Irene Van Horssen

HelpAge International has worked with six other agencies to launch a new set of minimum standards to support ageing and disability-inclusive responses in humanitarian crises.

Some 12.3% of the world's population are aged 60 and over, while 15% are living with some kind of disability. The share of older people in the population is growing, while the risk of disability often increases in conflicts and disasters. These people, therefore, make up a significant and growing proportion of disaster-affected communities.

Ahlam, who is deaf, stands among the rubble of her house in Gaza during August 2014 being told what happened Deaf girl Ahlam is told what happened to her house in Gaza as she stands among its rubble (c) ASDC

The Minimum Standards for Age and Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action are intended to inform humanitarian organisations about the actions needed to ensure their responses are as inclusive as possible. It's comprised of key standards and includes sections on shelter, nutrition, food security and livelihoods, education, health and protection.

"These new minimum standards provide guidance to allow humanitarian actors to review, develop and monitor their progress in supporting the needs of these two highly vulnerable groups", said Justin Derbyshire, Director of Programmes at HelpAge International.

"As such they make a direct contribution to support the quality and accountability of future humanitarian programming."

In June 2015, the Global Protection Cluster reported that in Ukraine, 59% of registered internally displaced people were older. In 2014, HelpAge International and Handicap International reported that 22% of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon were suffering from some kind of impairment. This figure rose to 70% among older people. 

Yet both groups continue to face difficulties accessing humanitarian assistance and protection despite growing evidence of the risks they face in disasters and conflicts.

The document draws on existing standards, including the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability, the Sphere Handbook, and the Sphere Companion Standards, as well as materials developed by specialist age and disability agencies.

Providing practical support

Christine Knudsen, Director of The Sphere Project, welcomed the document, recognising the role it can play in supporting humanitarian service delivery: "With the publication of these minimum standards for age and disability, practitioners and organisations have even stronger support and clear illustrations of what this means in practice and what actions can be taken."

A man stands in front of his house destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines An older man stands in front of the remains of his house in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan (c) Peter Caton/HelpAge International

Paul Valentin, International Director at Christian Aid, added: "The standards give practical support and advice on how to adapt emergency responses to meet the needs and build on the capacities of those who are often left out in disasters.

"The clear guidance and format gives extra depth to the core Humanitarian Standards and will go a long way to help us support our partners in inclusive programming."

Dr M Ashmawey, Chief Executive Officer of Islamic Relief, also praised the document: "This report will add value to the response and guide humanitarian workers to fully achieve impartiality and humanitarian principles."

The ADCAP programme

The Minimum Standards for Age and Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action has been developed as part of the Age and Disability Capacity Building (ADCAP) programme, led by HelpAge International as part of a portfolio of capacity strengthening projects under the Start Network.

ADCAP is an initiative of the Age and Disability Consortium, a group of seven agencies working to promote age and disability inclusive humanitarian assistance: CBM,, Handicap International, HelpAge International, IFRC, Oxford Brookes University and RedR UK. The programme is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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Comments submitted for this page

  • Aniyamuzaala James Rwampigi (16 September 2015)

    Thanks very much for these Minimum standards .There are among the recommendations i made in my research ,'compliance of Humanitarian action with the CRPD.They will help to improve inclusion of PWDs in all Humanitarian programmes.They should be approved by IASC and i recommend that a team of ADCAP experts be estabilished in different regions to support organisations to include Older persons and persons with disabilities.

    Aniyamuzaala Aniyamuzaala
    former student
    Center for Education and research in Humanitarian Action

  • Guadalupe E.Rodríguez (11 September 2015)

    Very important to include these issues , considering the skills gained in these people , who can take advantage , 60años seniors know the history of their locality ; the disabled , blind example enhanced their sense of direction , or hearing, etc.

  • Martin Villarroel Garcia (09 September 2015)

    Felicito la construccion y difusion de las Normas Minimas para Adultos e Inclusion de discapacidad en la Accion Humanitaria. Ya se cuenta con una version en español?, como puedo conseguir la version en español para usar en la formacion de adultos?

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