By Sarah Marzouk
HelpAge International is very concerned for the safety of the 66,000 people in the Gaza strip aged 60 and over. Many have difficulty walking or have chronic illnesses that limit their mobility.
(c) Sarah Marzouk/HelpAge International
Their ability to escape dangerous situations and to access essential healthcare and other services is very limited.
The situation of older people
The social and economic situation facing many older people makes them extremely vulnerable to shocks and emergencies. A combination of our research and internationally available data shows that:
- 7.3% of older people in Gaza live alone, away from the family and social support networks on which they often rely to meet their basic needs.
- 63.2% of people aged 60 and over in the Gaza Strip suffer from one or more non-communicable disease placing them at major risk from disruption the disruption of health services, as currently being experienced.
- Of those aged 60 and above, 25% of men and 19% of women suffer from a disability or have trouble moving.
- 20.7% of those aged 55 and over suffer from depression.
Since 7 July, 1,780 houses in Gaza have been destroyed or severely damaged. So far, over 9,900 people have been displaced. The number of deaths and injuries is increasing.
Difficult to reach those affected
According to our staff on the ground, the streets of Gaza are empty and almost all shops are closed. Electricity and water supplies are limited. Hospitals operated by the Ministry of Health are functioning and treating injuries, despite severely depleted medical supplies and long electricity outages.
While hostilities continue, it is extremely difficult for HelpAge International and other humanitarian aid providers to reach vulnerable people. Our office in Gaza is currently closed and many of our staff have left their homes in fear of their safety.
As a result, we are not currently able to respond directly to the needs of the older people affected. However, we have put in a place a comprehensive action plan which will ensure that, as soon as work is possible once more, we will be able to respond to the most urgent needs of older people and their families.
Plan to ensure older people are included in humanitarian response
This 6-week intervention plan seeks to support at least 1,400 families headed by older people in Gaza. The intervention will focus on food security, shelter, health, water and advocacy. Our main purpose is to ensure that all affected older people are included in the humanitarian response.
Activities planned include:
- Rapid needs assessments for older people affected in the areas of Gaza where we work, to identify their most urgent needs. Based on the assessments, we will distribute mobility aids and hygiene kits that include adult diapers.
- Working with others on the ground to secure 1,400 shelter kits specifically for displaced older people and their families, which will include blankets, clothes and cooking utensils.
- Coordinating with the Ministry of Health to refer older patients to the services they need.
- Working with the food sector and UNRWA (UN works agency for Palestine refugees in the near East) to secure the distribution of food baskets for two weeks to at least 1,400 older people who are displaced. We will also secure special food baskets for 500 older people, in addition to those already being supplied to the general population by the World Food Programme.
- Working through our affiliate El Wedad, to provide psychosocial support for older people affected by the ongoing crisis.
HelpAge International calls on the parties to the conflict to allow essential humanitarian aid to be provided to the civilians of Gaza, in particular to the most vulnerable people such as older people.