HelpAge International Wins US$ 1.5 million Hilton Humanitarian Prize

8 March 2012

International jury selects only global NGO with singular focus on improving the lives of the world's older people

International Women's Day: HelpAge calls for urgent action to help millions of older women who are the invisible backbone of communities, families and food production

HelpAge International, the only global organisation with a singular focus on providing assistance to and advocating for disadvantaged older people, has been selected to receive the 2012 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 million. The Prize will be presented at the Global Philanthropy Forum on April 16 in Washington, D.C.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation presents the annual award, the world's largest humanitarian prize, to an organisation that is doing extraordinary work to alleviate human suffering. The foundation made the announcement today on International Women's Day in recognition of the invisible role of older women in maintaining the welfare of families, communities and food production across the developing world.

"The world is aging. By 2015, over 890 million people will be over 60; nearly three times the total population of the United States of America. Nearly 190 million older people live in poverty with more than 100 million living on less than $1 a day," said Steven M. Hilton, CEO and president of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. "As the world prepares for this monumental demographic shift, HelpAge is showing us that it is important to recognise and support older people so they can continue to be contributing and productive members of society."

"Receiving the Hilton Prize is a great honour", added Richard Blewitt, chief executive officer of HelpAge International, "It is especially meaningful to draw the world's attention to the historic transformation being brought about by global aging and the plight of millions of older people who face overwhelming financial, social and health hurdles every day. At HelpAge, we believe the whole world benefits when we tap the substantial wisdom and talents of older people and enable them to lead dignified, active, healthy and secure lives."

Women make up the majority of older people around the world - nearly two thirds of those over the age of 80 are women. Many older women in developing countries are not only the economic providers for families, but frequently they are the sole caregivers of AIDS orphaned grandchildren. In Kenya alone, there are 1.1 million children orphaned by HIV/AIDS; in a country where more than half of those over aged 60 already live in absolute poverty.

"Older women are responsible for much of the farming and food production in developing countries, a critical function as food insecurity grows," notes Catherine A. Bertini, Hilton Prize juror, Syracuse University professor, and former executive director of the United Nations World Food Program. "They are the key contributors to families and communities."

Blewitt added, "Increasingly the face of the small scale farmer is the face of an older woman. They have little support or the option to retire because of increasing urban migration, food insecurity and climate change".

"On International Women's Day, HelpAge want older women farmers to get the help they deserve, including: targeted agricultural subsidies, a basic form of pension for agricultural workers and increased skill sharing with children to protect future generations".
Both an advocacy and development organisation, in 2002 HelpAge was instrumental in shaping the United Nations Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging, adopted by 57 countries who pledged to include aging in all social and economic development policies. Since then, the HelpAge global network of older people and its Affiliated organisations have continued to press for improvement in government policies supporting the aged.

HelpAge International believes a critical component is engagement of older people themselves in efforts to claim their rights to health care, social services and economic and physical security. It has shown that older people are their own best advocates and make valuable contributions to society as caregivers, advisors, mentors, mediators and breadwinners.

HelpAge was formed in 1983 by organisations across the United Kingdom, Canada, Colombia, Kenya and India that had similar missions to support older people. In the United Kingdom, founding organisation Help the Aged, now Age UK, provides essential funding to HelpAge International. Age UK funds long term development as well as emergency relief work and is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) which recently raised money in response to the East Africa Crisis, Pakistan Floods Haiti Earthquake and Haiti Earthquake.

Today HelpAge International encompasses 94 HelpAge Affiliates in 70 countries and more than 3,000 independent partner groups and older people's organisations. The organisation has trained 25,000 professionals and 16,000 community members - including older people themselves - to provide health care, legal advice and financial support for older people.

Among HelpAge's accomplishments in 2011 were:

• Helped 2 million older people claim a new or increased pension payment

• Aided 360,000 older people and their families to get through life-shattering emergencies, such as the East African famine and Haiti earthquake

• Helped 48,000 older people to receive basic health care

• Supported 50,000 older people to fight abuse and discrimination cases with the help of 300 specially-trained older people's groups

• Provided 5,000 older people with voluntary HIV counseling and testing

Viewed as the world's leading authority on global ageing, HelpAge is actively engaging with the United Nations, European Union, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, bilateral donor governments, the World Economic Forum and other influential organisations to ensure there is a strong understanding of the critical need to support the human rights of older people.

2012 is being recognized as the Year of Global Aging triggered by the 10th anniversary of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging when world leaders will again convene to review what has been accomplished in a decade of progress to extend rights for older people. HelpAge is collaborating with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on The World's Older Persons Report to launch on October 1st that will assess the progress made since 2002. In Europe, 2012 is also being celebrated as the Year for Active Aging and Solidarity between Generations across EU countries.

The Hilton Prize receives more than 200 nominations from throughout the world each year, and an independent international jury makes the final selection.


Case Studies
HelpAge International policy briefing on Older Rural Women for International Women's Day 2012 can be downloaded here. ©: Mark Gorman, Strategic Development Adviser

Case studies celebrating four "Kenyan Mama's" personal stories of growing old can be downloaded here.

Accompanying high-resolution photographs of HelpAge International's work supporting older women in Kenya are available for download here. © Frederic Courbet, HelpAge International, 2012. (Username:, password: password).

To download simply hit ‘Batch Download':

Photos 1 - 7:
Mama Teresa, full name, Mary Teresa Anyango, (68)

Photos 9 -17:
Mama Brigita aka, Brigita Oketch Nyawald, (estimate 64)

Photos: 18, 21, 23, 24
Mama Getruda, Getruda Adhiambo Okumu, (76)

Photos: 19, 20, 22
Mama Angeline", Angeline Awuor Odipo, (75)


Available for interviews: Richard Blewitt, chief executive officer of HelpAge International; and Judy Miller, vice president of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Please contact Barbara Casey or Rachel Trayner.

Rachel Trayner, HelpAge International (UK)
+44(0)207 148 7623, +44(0)7738982122,

Barbara Casey, Hilton Foundation (US)
+1 (310) 473-8090

Social Media
@hiltonprize #HiltonPrize, @helpage

About HelpAge International

HelpAge International is a global network of organizations helping older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives. For more information, please visit:

About Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize

The Hilton Prize jury currently includes: Princess Salimah Aga Khan, international ambassador for SOS Kinderdorf International; Catherine A. Bertini, professor of public administration, Syracuse University, and former executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme; Gro Harlem Brundtland, MPH, former director-general of the World Health Organization and former prime minister of Norway; Eric M. Hilton, director, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and son of the late Conrad Hilton; James R. Galbraith, director, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; Strive Masiyiwa, African humanitarian, business leader and cell phone pioneer, founder and executive chairman of Econet Wireless; and Professor Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize Laureate in economics and Lamont University professor at Harvard University.
The Hilton Prize Laureates are recognized leaders in the humanitarian world and include: Handicap International (France), 2011; Aravind Eye Care System (India) 2010; PATH (Washington), 2009; BRAC (Bangladesh), 2008; Tostan (Senegal), 2007; Women for Women International (Washington, DC), 2006; Partners In Health (Massachusetts), 2005; Heifer International (Arkansas), 2004; International Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims (Denmark), 2003; SOS Children's Villages (Austria), 2002; St. Christopher's Hospice (United Kingdom), 2001; Casa Alianza (Costa Rica), 2000; African Medical and Research Foundation (Kenya), 1999; Doctors Without Borders (France), 1998; International Rescue Committee (New York), 1997; and Operation Smile (Virginia), 1996.

About Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world's disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in five priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance abuse, caring for vulnerable children, and extending Conrad Hilton's support for the work of Catholic Sisters. Following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to alleviate human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 billion in grants and in 2011 distributed $82 million to organizations in the U.S. and throughout the world. The Foundation's current assets are approximately $2 billion. For more information, please visit

Tags for this page