Photo: Heywood Hadfield/HelpAge International
An independent evaluation of HelpAge's project to support older people displaced by the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has found that "the overall impact was impressive".
The evaluation was commissioned as part of the accountability agreement with the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) to assess how well we had met the project objectives, and make recommendations for improving future projects.
Horrific violence directed at civilians during the fighting in North Kivu, caused 250,000 people to flee their homes in 2008. Many had already been displaced several times.
Such frequency of violent outbreaks damaged Congolese society, and disrupted family and support mechanisms. This had a huge impact on older people, who are especially vulnerable in humanitarian emergencies.
In response to the deteriorating situation, the DEC launched an appeal.
In January 2009, HelpAge started the first phase of a DEC-funded programme in Goma town, North Kivu to support older displaced people in the area.
The objectives of the programme have, for the most part, been met. The evaluation says that:
"HelpAge managed to achieve a significant amount, not only in terms of direct activities with older people, but also in bringing about a shift in the way other organisations looked at - and worked with - older people."
The evaluation found that the impressive results of the project were in great part due to the dedication of HelpAge staff, especially given the limited amount of time and resources available.
Working with other agencies
HelpAge, with Merlin and the Ministry of Health, trained almost 200 health workers to provide appropriate healthcare for older people. We helped set up older people's committees, which have given older people more confidence by involving them in planning activities and projects.
In cooperation with CARE, we provided just under 4,000 people with sandals, mats, quilts, sweaters and other items. This was more than we had expected.
We also achieved our aim of building age-friendly social centres.
"HelpAge empower older people"
OCHA and UNHCR both commented on the quality of HelpAge's work and the impact we made. They, and other NGOs, commended our style of working and the way we empower older people.
HelpAge played a crucial role in raising awareness of older people's needs among international organisations. We hope this will be a long term change.
Small project, lasting impact
The project was also successful in terms of sustainability. Training local partners, working with local NGOs and establishing relationships with partner agencies are all lasting investments.
The success and sustainability of this project also means that HelpAge now has the capacity for longer-term programming in the area. We will also be able to respond quickly to future emergencies.
Frances Stevenson, Head of Emergencies at HelpAge says:
"The evaluation shows that even small projects can have an impact. Working with partners and older people themselves, we have made a significant impact in a difficult situation."