Thousands of older people are struggling to survive the unprecedented floods in Pakistan, but they are not receiving the help they need HelpAge International warns today.
So many older people are facing huge challenges to survive because of poor mobility and health issues, for example, but they are being ignored by the humanitarian response, says Syed Moeez, HelpAge s country director in Pakistan.
Food aid being dropped from planes, as we are seeing now, excludes older people from the outset because they cannot run to retrieve the food. The humanitarian response needs to ensure that support reaches where it is needed most, and that includes targeting older people, adds Syed Moeez.
While the UN humanitarian appeal launched jointly with the Government of Pakistan did mention older people as a priority group, HelpAge is concerned that older people are not routinely being included in needs assessments and therefore an understanding of their needs is limited. The UN humanitarian appeal urged international donors not to divert already committed development funds to flood relief.
Disaster of epic proportions
This is a disaster of epic proportions. A higher rainfall was predicted after the unprecedented hot weather, but we didn t expect torrential flash floods on such a scale, says Syed Moeez.
There are 16 million older people in Pakistan and there is an urgent need to find out how many have been affected by the floods and what specific help they need.
HelpAge is working with local organisations to support 8,000 older people in the most affected areas of Jhal Magsi district in Balochistan province and Khairpur district in Sindh province. This includes providing food, shelter, basic health care, cash (so older people can buy what they specifically need), non-food items, such as blankets and pots and pans, assistive devices, such as walking sticks and psychosocial support.
This includes people like Haji Noor Muhammad (70) from Shaheed Benazirabad district in Sindh Province who is paralysed down the right side of his body so when heavy rains destroyed his home, he struggled to make it to a safer place. Thankfully his neighbours helped him reach temporary accommodation in a tent, but he doesn t have access to the daily medicines he needs.
Muhmmad Salih (75) from Shahpur Jahania village, in the same district, is living with his family in the open air as they couldn t get to the shelter provided in the community school quickly enough, and it was already full. The mud-plastered home he shared with his wife and four children was completely destroyed by the heavy rains and his livestock were killed.
This emergency has occurred at a time when Pakistan is faced with severe economic challenges. Inflation on food items has reached 41% in a country that is still recovering from the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is also the eighth most affected country from climate change in the world.
This is particularly challenging for older people in a country where only 2.5 per cent of the population receive a pension.
We know that the whole world is affected by high fuel and food prices, compounded by the war in Ukraine, said Syed Moeez but this is not a reason to overlook those in desperate need in Pakistan who are also facing the very real dangers of climate change right now.
The floods follow an unprecedented heatwave which exceeded 50C. As with the floods, this created specific challenges for older people with chronic medical conditions that hinder the body s ability to adapt to heat.
HelpAge is calling on developed countries to take more responsibility on climate change and to support countries like Pakistan who are most at risk.
HelpAge is calling on the government of Pakistan and national and international humanitarian organisations to make sure older people are consulted and their needs are addressed during the humanitarian initiatives in flood-affected areas.