By the Danish Refugee Council
HelpAge International and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) are launching an initiative focusing on the protection of older refugees, one of the most vulnerable groups in displacement situations. The project will take place in South Sudan's Upper Nile State where 110,000 refugees have crossed the border from Sudan during the last year. (c) Christian Als/Dansk Flygtningehjælp
The DRC and HelpAge partnership will address the protection needs of older refugees in Yusuf Batil camp in Upper Nile State; bringing together different areas of expertise. DRC has a strong presence in the area providing various protection services, while HelpAge has the technical expertise on protection issues related to older people, particularly in situations of displacement.
Older people among most vulnerable
"Older people are amongst the most vulnerable refugees in Yusuf Batil camp. Every day we meet older people who have arrived alone because they couldn't move fast enough and fell behind others who were fleeing," says Kate Norton, Country Director for DRC in South Sudan.
"In a recent vulnerability assessment in the camp, 40% of the men and women identified as vulnerable were above the age of 60. As older people represent 4% of the overall population in the camp, this shows just how vulnerable this group is," Norton continues.
Age-proofing refugee camps
"Unfortunately, older people are too often overlooked in policies and programmes responding to refugee situations," says Fiona Clark, HelpAge's Head of Programmes in East, West and Central Africa.
"Limited mobility, visual and hearing impairments and chronic diseases seriously hamper older people's access to basic services. Older people are also often taking care of young dependants, creating a double protection risk.
"We want to fill this gap by supporting DRC to ‘age-proof' Yusuf Batil Camp. This includes monitoring specific protection risks to older people, providing age-friendly services and awareness raising and training for DRC and other humanitarian staff."
Creating older people's committees
HelpAge's Affiliate in South Sudan, the South Sudanese Older People's Organization (SSOPO) will also be involved by supporting the setting up and running of older people's committees in the camp.
Over 1,300 older people and 6,000 people they care for in Yusuf Batil camp will benefit directly from this partnership. Other than working directly with refugees, the partners will also sensitise other humanitarian actors working in South Sudan by raising issues of ageing and displacement.