Older people demand their fair share of humanitarian aid as UNJUST campaign launches


By Sarah Marzouk

On 20 February, World Day of Social Justice, HelpAge is launching the first ever campaign to address the needs of older people in humanitarian emergencies.

The UNJUST campaign calls for older people to be better supported in emergencies and encouraged to actively participate during emergency and recovery situations.

Older people in six countries around the world - from Pakistan to Kenya - are meeting decision makers to make these demands.

Habiba is about 70-years-old and lives in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Habiba lives in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. She said: Sometimes I am unable to get food distributions. People struggle and fight, the sun is very hot and I get pushed away. (c) Benjamin Schilling/HelpAge International

New research

New HelpAge research confirms that emergency aid has failed to address the needs of older people in emergency situations around the world - despite their being among the most vulnerable.

A new Study on the Situation of Older People in Haiti published today shows that, in the area of risk and disaster management, 70% of older people in urban areas and 80% in rural areas said they had not received assistance in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

In such situations, HelpAge can be the only agency responding to older people's needs. After the Haiti earthquake, we supported over 24,000 older people and their families.

Today, a delegation of older people will present this report to a UNOCHA representative in Haiti. They will also discuss older people's needs in emergency interventions.

Action around the world

In Sudan, our partner and representatives from older people's associations are meeting with the Humanitarian Aid Commission and other humanitarian actors. They will present a letter demanding that the rights of older people in emergencies are recognised.

The UNJUST campaign in Pakistan is calling for age-friendly services during the early recovery phases of an emergency. There will also be rallies before the meetings in three provinces.

A group from the South Sudan Older People's Organisation are hosting a meeting in Juba with representative from UNICEF and UNOCHA and Government ministers. They will discuss older people's need for support in the Yusuf Batil camp for internally displaced people. A local celebrity musician is also putting on a show in Maban.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, older people are meeting representatives from the World Food Programme to discuss older people's access to food in emergencies.

And in Kenya, a workshop is taking place to sensitise participants from NGOs to older people's needs in emergencies.

Growing numbers of older people caught up in emergencies

Despite about 11% of the world's population being aged 60 and above, less than 1% of humanitarian aid is allocated to older people.

By 2050, the number of people aged 60 and over will almost triple, reaching two billion. As the numbers of older people affected by humanitarian crises and disasters increase, humanitarian actors need to adapt policy and practice to ensure that older people are included in the relief effort.

Richard Blewitt, HelpAge's Chief Executive, said:

"When a humanitarian crisis hits, older people are particularly vulnerable to injury, death, neglect, and disease. However, their plight in emergencies often goes unnoticed - older people remain invisible in crises.

"Governments must do much more to tackle the inequality that hampers humanitarian efforts and to ensure that older people start off on a solid footing with support for their unique needs. A comprehensive response requires awareness from all organisations - including UN agencies, international NGOs, political leaders and policy experts."

Get involved!

Here's what you can do to get involved:

  • Follow @helpage on Twitter to keep updated with the campaign and what action our older campaigners are taking on the ground.
  • Retweet our content on and around 20 February to show your support for older people in humanitarian crises.
  • Follow the action as it happens through our UNJUST storify.
  • Use the #UNJUST hashtag to spread the word about the campaign, tweet why you think older people should be better included in emergency aid and help us to get #UNJUST trending on Twitter!

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