UN and HelpAge International call to reduce death toll among over-60s in disasters

Embargoed until 00.01 Monday 13 October - UN Day for Disaster Risk Reduction

UN and HelpAge International call to reduce death toll among over-60s in disasters

13 October 2014, The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and HelpAge International today issued a joint call for greater involvement of older persons in disaster management efforts worldwide in order to bring down death tolls among those over 60.

There is strong evidence that older persons suffer disproportionately from disasters even in developed countries. In 2005, 75% of those killed by Hurricane Katrina were over 60 but made up just 15% of the population in New Orleans. In 2011, 56% of those who died in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami were 65 and over, despite comprising just 23% of the population.

A survey conducted for today's International Day for Disaster Reduction demonstrates that older persons are often excluded or marginalised when disaster management plans are being drawn up at community level. 58% of respondents said they did not know who was responsible for disaster preparedness in their communities and 68% do not participate at all in such activity.

Asked how they would like to be better included in decision-making on disaster planning, 70% of respondents noted their wish to explain the special needs and vulnerabilities of older persons while 43% said they wish to be given training so that they can help the community in disaster preparedness and response. And 32% said they wished to share their experiences on how to cope with disaster situations.

UNISDR and HelpAge International are calling on governments to sign up to Charter 14 for Older People in Disaster Risk Reduction and commit to specific inclusion of older persons in all facets of disaster management planning with a strong emphasis on early warnings and evacuation procedures http://www.unisdr.org/2014/iddr/documents/Charter14.pdf

UNISDR Head, Margareta Wahlström, said: "The older person is often invisible in our communities until they show up in the mortality figures after a disaster event. Demographic change means we are living in an ageing world. It is important to include older persons in disaster management for both their improved protection and to make full use of their experience, skills and knowledge in support of that.

"The world needs to become more acutely aware of how to protect older persons as the climate changes and the ageing population is exposed to more extreme events. For instance, thousands of people die every year in heat waves and older persons living in poverty are among the most vulnerable. Inclusion of their needs and social protection measures are vital to the success of disaster management in the years ahead."

There are currently 868 million people aged over 60 - that's 12% of the global population. By 2050, it is predicted that there will be nearly as many people aged 60 or over as children under 15 - 2.02 billion compared with 2.03 billion.

"Older people bear the initial brunt of disasters often because they cannot flee," said HelpAge International's Chief Executive, Toby Porter, at the launch of a joint event with UNISDR in Rustenburg, South Africa.

"This is compounded by the lack of essential medications for older people, such as to treat diabetes, being available after disasters. And the mental fall-out from disasters is huge. Older women and men are ready to help others but are often too proud to help themselves."

"To turn this around, governments and disaster management agencies need to address older people's vulnerabilities and tap into the years of experience, knowledge and skills that they bring to help reduce the effects of disasters," added Porter.


HelpAge International have found effective ways of including older people in disaster preparedness and response, as well as mitigation, protection and planning activities and has just published: "Disaster Resilience in an Ageing World. How to make policies and programmes inclusive of older people" outlining how disaster management practitioners can include older people and meet their requirements in:

• Risk assessment
• Early warning systems
• Stockpiling
• Evacuation planning
• Training of responders
• Protection and psychosocial response
• Health and nutrition planning

The guideline publication also recommends ways to work with older people to address the underlying economic, social, environmental, and/or physical causes of vulnerability to disaster risks through:

• Livelihoods
• Climate-smart agriculture
• Micro- credit and insurance
• Social protection

www.helpage.org - www.unisdr.org


Notes to Editors

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (www.unisdr.org) & HelpAge International (www.helpage.org) launch International Day for Disaster Reduction at the Civic Centre in Rustenburg, South Africa on Monday 13 October - the UN International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Materials for download include logos, banners, posters, Charter 14, DRR publication, images and video content and are available here: https://helpage.box.com/s/n7yii1vabv3gb9ei9y3z

Available for interview:

• Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction/ Head of UNISDR
• Sharon Ruso, Head of Africa Office, UNISDR
• Toby Porter, HelpAge International, Chief Executive Officer, in Rustenburg for IDDR event,
• Sola Mahoney, member of the board, HelpAge International
• Necodimus Chipufa, HelpAge International, Southern Africa Regional Director, in Rustenburg for IDDR event
• Silvia Stephanoni, Deputy Director, HelpAge International
• Clare Harris, HelpAge International, DRR and Resilience Adviser, London

International Day for Disaster Reduction #IDDR14

2014 is the final year in the four-year "Step-Up" Campaign on IDDR, which raises awareness and advocates for inclusive disaster risk reduction, each year focusing on the role of important actors such as - Children and Young People (2011), Women and Girls (2012), People living with Disability (2013) and Older Persons (2014).

HelpAge is the main UNISDR partner in the IDDR 2014 day. Official IDDR website: http://www.unisdr.org/2014/iddr/#

Age inclusive disaster management surveys

One survey is designed for older people and their caregivers to obtain their opinions and experience of DRR, the impact of disasters on them and if their needs were met in response and recovery operations. The second is designed for government disaster management personnel and other agencies working in emergencies and DRR to understand their perception of older people in DRR.

Information and links to surveys can be found: http://www.helpage.org/newsroom/latest-news/helpage-and-un-launch-survey-on-older-people-and-disasters/

Media Contacts:

In Rustenberg, South Africa:

Lwazikazi Mtana, HelpAge International Regional Communications Officer, Email: lwazikazi.mtana@helpagesouthafrica.org Phone: 00 2712342 0222 Mobile: 00 2781 0373 359

Andrew Mcelroy, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) Email: mcelroy@un.org Mobile: +82 (0)10 7924 8424 Phone: +82 (0)32 458 6558

In London:


Beth Howgate, Media Relations officer, HelpAge International
Email: beth.howgate@helpage.org
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7148 7606. Mobile: + 44 (0) 7713 567 624
Skype: beth.howgate.hai

Sarah Gillam, Media Relations Manager, HelpAge International sarah.gillam@helpage.org Tel: + 44 207 148 7623 Mobile: + 44 7713 567 624 Skype: sarah.gillam.hai

In Geneva:

Denis McClean, Head of Communications, UNISDR
Phone: +41 (0) 22 917 8897
Mobile: +41 (0) 79 444 5262
E-mail: mccleand@un.org

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