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Nepal Earthquake: Older people among the most vulnerable
HelpAge International warns that older people living alone or with young dependents are among the most at risk following Nepal’s Earthquake as they may be unable to access essential items due to mobility problems.
“Older people bear the initial brunt of disasters as they are unable to flee. The physical decline that comes with ageing, including poor mobility and hearing, will mean older people are extremely vulnerable,” said Toby Porter, Chief Executive Officer at HelpAge International.
“Especially if they are caring for small children or live alone,” he said.
Around 8.1 per cent of Nepal’s population are aged 60 and over. It is thought most of the residents in the areas close to where the earthquake struck are older men and women and children, as the younger populations have left to find work.
Economic migration of the working age population has left older people vulnerable in the wake of the earthquake. Some two million Nepalese live and work outside of Nepal, excluding those in India.
Remittances account for some 25 per cent of Nepal’s GDP with most rural families relying on income from relatives working outside the country.
“We need to focus our efforts on responding to the specific needs of older people who may not have the support of family members nearby and who may have young children in their care,” said Porter. “A group of experts is on its way to support the team in Kathmandu to respond as efficiently as possible,” he said.
Nepal is ranked in the bottom quarter of HelpAge’s Disaster Risk and Age Index (30) which assesses the risk faced by older people and their ability to cope in 190 countries.
“When the earthquake hit I could see houses in the hills collapsing one by one. I was shocked because I had never experienced an earthquake of this level,” said Ashish Magar, who works with HelpAge International in Kathmandu.
“At the moment rain is hampering the aid effort and there is a scarcity of water, food and shelter. Many of us are living outside in tents because we are too afraid the buildings will collapse from the aftershocks,” said Magar.
International aid is beginning to reach Nepal following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The current death toll is thought to be over 5,000 and almost 8,000 people are known to be injured. It is estimated that 8 million people have been affected by the earthquake.
HelpAge International has an existing programme in Nepal and well-established local partners in the affected areas. HelpAge staff are developing relief distribution and cash transfer programmes targeted at older men and women so that they can buy essential items such as food and water.
“Older people may have ongoing medical issues, such as diabetes which need urgent treatment. We will be working with other agencies to make sure older women and men are not left out of humanitarian programmes,” said Porter.
“There are few spaces in Kathmandu for people to feel safe. I stood by the river all day as this was the safest place. Everyone is in shock, even though the tremors have stopped we are still fearful,” said Magar.
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Notes to Editors
Available for Interview
Toby Porter, HelpAge International, Chief Executive Officer
Peter McGeachie, HelpAge International, Director of South Asia region, in Kathmandu
About HelpAge International
The HelpAge network is a unique worldwide alliance of over 100 organisations in 65 countries. HelpAge International helps 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 www.helpage.org
The Disaster Risk and Age Index The Disaster Risk and Age Index ranks 190 countries across the world on the disaster risk faced by older people. The methodology used to develop the Disaster Risk and Age Index is based primarily on the INFORM 2015 Disaster Risk Index developed by the European Commission in collaboration with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Team for Preparedness and Resilience.
The INFORM 2015 index balances two major forces: hazard and exposure, and vulnerability and lack of coping capacity.
For more information please visit http://bit.ly/1GiNu2a International Organization for Migration https://www.iom.int/news/nepal-launches-joint-migration-and-development-initiative-project
Beth Howgate, Media Relations Officer at HelpAge International +44 (0) 20 7148 7606/ +44 (0) 20 7148 7623, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Skype: beth.howgate.hai