Attack on Rafah will have dire consequences for older people

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Susanna Flood



The forced movement of some 100,000 people and a full-scale ground offensive by the Israeli Defence Force will be catastrophic for older people sheltering in Rafah.

Gaza’s older people have shown remarkable resilience in extreme circumstances, but a move to the so-called “humanitarian areas” in a safe and dignified manner will be extremely difficult – if not impossible – for many.

People in Rafah have faced multiple displacements over the past seven months. This is particularly challenging for older people, especially those with health conditions, mobility issues and on the verge of severe malnutrition.

Relocating to an overcrowded location with insufficient supplies to meet their needs will also increase the chances of injury, disease, and starvation. And living in unsafe and undignified conditions exposes women of all ages to risks of gender-based violence, exploitation, and abuse.

With wheelchairs and walkers damaged, lost or abandoned during flight, and with replacements often being refused entry into Gaza as so-called “dual use” items, older people with disabilities and reduced mobility will experience immense difficulties if they are forced to move.

The consequences for older people and their caregivers – who are disproportionately women – who are unable to relocate are unthinkable. They face possible death, increased morbidity and injury from Israeli airstrikes and the assault by ground troops, as well as increased risk of violence and abuse.

If they become separated from their families, they will be left isolated and exposed to danger. This will increase the risk of mental health problems and pre-existing health conditions may become worse. Much of the vital infrastructure in Rafah, including medical facilities, has already been destroyed and they will almost certainly struggle to access shelter, as well as essential supplies and services.

HelpAge International reiterates our urgent call for a full, immediate and permanent ceasefire. We call on the Israeli authorities to take all necessary measures and precautions to protect civilians in Gaza and immediately halt the forced relocation of Palestinians and the military incursion into Rafah. We urge them to prioritise peace talks and an end to this conflict.

We also call on those with influence to use all diplomatic means to prevent any further attacks on Rafah and bring an end to hostilities. Action must be taken now to protect civilians, avoid derailing the peace talks, ensure that sufficient and uninterrupted assistance gets into Gaza, and protect negotiations for the release of the remaining hostages.