Africa's elderly bear brunt of humanitarian crises amid weak interventions: report

The elderly population in Africa is bearing the brunt of humanitarian crises triggered by conflicts and climate change linked disasters, said a study released here on Monday.

According to the study titled "Older people in displacement: falling through the cracks of emergency responses," the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the greater horn of African region linked to wars and droughts have taken a heavier toll on senior citizens amid weak response mechanisms.


"Older people with disabilities reported receiving less support from their families during displacement as resources were scarce and families grew tired of caring for them," said the study, which was commissioned by the HelpAge International, a charity group.


"This loss of power, dignity and respect can have harmful impact on older people's psychological health," it added.


The study, which covered Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda, sheds light on the vulnerabilities of older people in the event of calamities against a backdrop of haphazard or weak responses from humanitarian actors and the wider society.

It noted that the suffering of elderly and displaced persons in the regional hotspots has been exacerbated by a breakdown of traditional social safety nets, abject poverty, chronic illnesses and various forms of disabilities.

Prafulla Mishra, the Africa regional director at the HelpAge, noted that civil strife, coupled with negative impacts of climate change, have conspired to aggravate the misery of elderly persons in the eastern African region.

"Continued conflicts and the frequent cycle of droughts in east Africa dismantle communities' power and support structures, breaking down older people's traditional positions of influence and power within communities," Mishra said.

"As younger people migrate to find work in urban areas or pasture further afield, those left in the villages face further isolation and neglect," he added.

Mishra praised governments in the region for developing progressive safety nets tailor-made for the elderly population but urged humanitarian actors to retool resilience programs earmarked for this demographic in the light of recurring disasters.

"While governments in east Africa, in particular Kenya and Ethiopia, are increasingly developing social protection policies, universal pension systems and other safety nets that build the resilience of older people, humanitarian organizations are not responding fast enough," said Mishra.

He noted that humanitarian disasters linked to climate change will intensify in the region, and that governments and relief agencies need to come up with programs that enhance resilience of older people.


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