By Sarah Marzouk
HelpAge International is extremely concerned about the safety and wellbeing of older people affected by the recent escalation of unrest in North Kivu province in eastern Democratic of Congo (DRC).
Around 140,000 people have been displaced by the latest eruption of violence – a rebellion by the M23 militia force, formerly members of the Congolese Army (FARDC). We estimate 12,000 older people aged 50 or over are among the displaced.
(c) Gacheru Maina/HelpAge International
HelpAge works in DRC’s North Kivu province supporting older people and their families who have been affected or displaced by the ongoing conflict.
High risk of cholera
Those who have been displaced urgently need food and medicines. Most are staying in large internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, while some are staying in primary schools without basic facilities. Clean drinking water is also in scarce supply and the risk of cholera is high.
An older people’s association, established and supported by HelpAge in Munganga III camp, is assisting older refugees who are fleeing from other camps in the area. About 700 older people arrived at the end of last week, without food or medicine.
These displaced older people brought plastic sheeting and sticks from their shelter in the IDP camps from which they fled. HelpAge’s older people’s association is helping them reconstruct temporary shelters.
Older people particularly vulnerable
Gaetan Duhamel, HelpAge’s Country Director in DRC said: "Older men and women are particularly vulnerable in disasters and conflicts.
"Many have difficulty walking or have chronic illnesses that limit their mobility so it is harder for them to escape dangerous situations. They also need help to access food, healthcare and other essential services."
Helpage is also worried that many older people will be left behind when displaced people are moved from camps like Mugunga III to their home areas or safer sites.
Our recent report on displacement, The neglected generation, showed that older people are often last in the queue for relief or resettlement, especially when they are frail and have no relatives to assist them.
Under international humanitarian law, older people are protected as "persons not participating in the hostilities". They are also entitled to special protection because of their weakened condition.
HelpAge International is the only international organisation dedicated to ensuring older people receive the assistance they need in humanitarian crises.
How you can help
Please donate now to support our working with older people in Congo DRC.