World: Older People Important Actors in Disaster Prevention (April 7, 2010)
In the face of natural disasters older persons are faced with particular threats but even so, they are not identified as a vulnerable group. Older people's rights must be recognized, especially in disasters, and so relief
agencies have taken initiative and the progress is discussed in this article.
World: In Wars and Disasters, Old People Get Left Behind (September 29,
However strong family bonds are, a sudden conflict or natural disaster can break them. Older people often suffer the most. "Sometimes older people do try and move with their relatives, but often they die--or are left to die on the way." This may be one reason why many old people risk staying behind to face danger in a familiar place rather than setting off into the unknown.
World: Report: Older Persons in Emergencies: An Active Ageing Perspective (2008)
(Report also available in French)
The World Health Organization commissioned case studies in 2006-2007 to examine how older persons fared in conflict-related and naturally caused emergencies in both developed and developing countries – war, drought, heat wave, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunami, ice storm, wild fires and a nuclear power plant explosion.
World: Report: Older People in Emergencies: Considerations for Action and Policy Development (2008)
Emergency program planners often overlook older people’s resilience and response to disasters and conflicts. This writer seeks to: (1) highlight problems that particularly affect older people in emergencies, especially health-related concerns; (2) propose a strategy to raise awareness about older people in emergencies; and (3) recommend policies and practices to address these considerations.
UK: Illuminating Displacement in the ‘Twilight Years:’ Locating and Conceptualising Older Refugees in Advocacy Efforts in the United Kingdom (March 2007)
(PDF format, 34 p)
MSc students of the Refugee Studies Centre of the University of Oxford
have produced a study highlighting "the main challenges in advocating for older refugees" and
analyze why very few organizations run projects for older refugees. The research group interviewed Global Action on
Aging as well as other refugee and older persons organizations.
World: Amnesty International: The State of the World’s Human Rights
This comprehensive report covering
the time span between January and December 2006, details human right’s
abuses around the world. Reports on abuses of older persons range from
mistreatment in institutions to hunger from forced evictions to violence
and murder. Countries include Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Chad, Colombia, Ireland and Paraguay. (Click here
to access the detailed country reports)
UN: Interview with Deborah Saidy, the
Director of the UN World Food Program New York Office Liaison (March 13,
GAA intern Valentine Honoré conducted an interview with Deborah Saidy,
Director of the New York Liaison Office of the United Nations World Food
Program. Committed to her work in fighting hunger, she discusses in
details the different issues related to global hunger, including its
impact on elderly persons.
Report: World: ICRC: Internally Displaced People (January 2007)
Often, military and other combatants severely violate international humanitarian laws during armed conflicts, resulting in internal displacement of many people. During such displacement, refugees face great vulnerability. In this report, the ICRC said, “the death toll among IDPs- especially among children, the elderly and pregnant women- frequently reaches alarming proportions.” Will the international community respond or turn away?
World: Humanitarians Embrace Climate
Change (January 30, 2007)
As humanitarians embrace environment, the link seems to lead to dire
consequences. Global warming appears to increase the number and
intensity of major emergencies such as food shortage or water scarcity.
As IFRC Secretary General Markku Niskala “the people most affected by
climate change will be the world’s most vulnerable…the elderly, the
disabled, and the poorest of the poor”.
World: Recommendations for the Care
of Mentally or Physically Challenged Persons, and the Elderly in
These recommendations from the Pan American Health Organization attempt
to determine the best ways to ensure the adequate care of mentally or
physically challenged persons and the elderly during emergencies. One of
the recommendations is to prepare a list of individuals who have the
primary responsibility for the care of challenged persons and frail
World: Meeting the Challenges of Migration – Progress since the ICPD
its latest report on migration, the UN Population Fund dedicates an entire
chapter to refugee protection, including the protection of vulnerable
groups such as the elderly. The report reaffirms the Madrid International
Plan of Action on Aging recommendations on the special needs of older
refugees; it also urges that “measures
to protect elderly persons, thereby avoiding chronic dependency, should
incorporate strategies that ensure older refugees are included in
education, training and income generating activities, both as recipients
and as providers, and in giving special attention to their health.”
World: When Disaster
Strikes, Will Seniors Survive? (October 16, 2006)
The media characteristically shines the spotlight on disasters
such as global warming, impending pandemics, or terrorist threats. The
official story often leaves out the main victims of many disasters:
elderly people. Katrina remains an example of this lack of focus. At very
few moments were elderly people pointed out as major victims, while based
on death toll number they suffered the most. This should be a reminder not
to forget elderly people the next time there is a national disaster.
World: Older Persons in Emergencies WHO Draft fact sheet (August 7, 2006)
This WHO draft paper deals with the serious issue of protection of older persons in emergencies. Older persons who may have slower comprehension, some inability to retain information, suffer reduced functional ability or digestive changes constitute a vulnerable group with specific needs. But thanks to their experience and their leadership role in their community, they are a critical resource in coping with emergencies as well.
World: High Commissioner's Statement for World Refugee Day 2006 (June 20, 2006)
In his speech on World Refugee Day, António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), celebrated the hope and strength both refugees and humanitarians should maintain. He explained UNHCR’s role in crises that leave many refugees in their wake, putting at risk vulnerable groups (including the elderly) population. While he insisted that refugees must be welcomed when they arrive in a foreign country, he also underlined how UNHCR helps return refugees to their home countries, sometimes after many years elapse.
World: When Disaster Strikes (June 2006)
In this article, the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) takes a break from responding to the South Asian earthquake to analyze “the complexity of delivering aid in emergencies.” Focusing more on
natural disasters than armed conflicts, IRIN details the comments and criticisms that come from people outside and inside the
humanitarian world. The article explains the complexities of delivering aid, especially to vulnerable groups (including the elderly) and
“explores the character of these limitations, using examples from recent emergencies, to show why crisis response is fraught with difficulties.”
World: Cash or Food (2006)
In emergency situations, rich countries usually send food donations to countries in need. Not a purely generous gesture: donor countries often “dump heavily subsidised grain surpluses to improve trade figures and to reward favoured groups of farmers and transporters,” making food aid an important component of world trade worth $3-4 billion a year. A handful of NGOs are now experimenting with “social cash transfers,” a new approach to emergency aid in which the needy can use cash to buy food or whatever they need most on local markets. In this discussion paper, CARE’s Robby Mwiinga argues in favor of direct cash transfers as the best way to support the most vulnerable, including older persons, while the World Food Program’s Gregory Barrow argues that direct food donations have the biggest impact for the most vulnerable.
World: Operational Protection in Camps and Settlements (June 2006)
While many sources claim the number of refugees around the world is decreasing, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is warning the international community about this deceptive figure. The truth is, the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) is actually booming. IDPs are “refugees” within the same country who therefore are not eligible to the title of Refugee. In this report, UNHCR offers a reference guide of “good practices in the protection of Refugees and other persons” (including IDPs) that aims at better cooperation between UNHCR and the NGOs on the ground. A better coordination would, for instance, allow vulnerable groups (including the elderly) to be registered faster as displaced persons and thus to receive support faster.
World: The Necessity for International Control of
Guns (May 14, 2006)
All over the world, communities live under the shadow of guns. From Africa all the way to Haiti in the Caribbean, gun crime is a big issue.
There’s one weapon for every ten people on the planet, each killing a civilian every minute. All societies have to deal with violence (including psychological violence) against children, women and the elderly. Yet gun violence can be stopped if governments and the international community make an effort to regulate the use and the trafficking of arms. “The faceless men who trade in the arms are just as guilty as the gun-men themselves. They too have blood on their hands,” the article’s author ends.
World: The State of the World's Refugees: Human Displacement in the New Millennium (2006)
This excerpt of the report provides an overview of key recent developments related to internal and cross-border displacement of people throughout the world. Recent years have seen a decline in the number of refugees, partly due to large-scale returns to Afghanistan and Angola, among others. Nonetheless, the majority of refugee situations remain protracted with no prospects for durable solutions in sight. The article critically examines the changing dynamics of forced migration. More specifically, it analyses key developments in asylum policy and practice.
and Development. Neglect in Emergencies (February 19, 2006)
(Article also available in Spanish)
Extensive research by HelpAge International highlights key problems of
widespread disregard of older people during emergency situations. It
includes core recommendations to include the elderly in emergency aid
policies. The publication contains articles on improving older people’s
access to assistance, and a briefing by older people on the Madrid
International Plan of Action on Ageing.
World: The Scale and Impact of Emergencies across the Globe (February 9, 2006)
This document, from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), explains different types of humanitarian crises, including natural disasters and armed conflicts. Unfortunately only 60% of the world’s emergencies attract international financial support The aftermath of emergencies are exacerbated in poor countries with underdeveloped infrastructures, high population densities and inadequate preparedness. Relief efforts play a significant part in aiding the most vulnerable groups of survivors, especially older persons, because these groups are more dependent on humanitarian aid for survival. Consider supporting financially the UN’s relief efforts.
World: Displaced Women and Girls at Risk: Risk Factors, Protection Solutions and Resource Tools (February 2006)
The Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children works to improve the lives and defend the rights of refugee and internally displaced women. In this report, the Commission advocates for women's inclusion and participation in programs of humanitarian assistance and protection. It specifically notes the needs of displaced elderly women, the reasons why they are at risk of exploitation, violence and abandonment. The report clearly depicts the mechanism of their marginalization and the ways to avoid it, even during situations as complicated as armed conflicts.
World: Grandmothers Promote Maternal and Child Health: the Role of Indigenous Knowledge Systems' Managers (February 2006)
Grandmothers are the managers of indigenous knowledge systems that deal with the development, care and well-being of women and children. In that position, grandmothers are expected to advise and supervise the younger generations. However, most development programs neither acknowledge their influence nor explicitly involve them in efforts to strengthen existing family and community survival strategies. That's why it is important to consider "senior women as resource persons in community programs," the report explains.
World: Beyond Conflict Prevention: Moving Forward on the Resolution 1325 (February 27, 2006)
The workshop was organized by Global Action to Prevent War and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. It explored the links between Security Council Resolution 1325, women in conflict prevention, early warning indicators and their implications for moving women, peace and security agenda forward. It was followed by another workshop entitled "Making Peace Work for Women" that dealt with the implementation of the Security Council Resolution 1325 in the subsequent five years after it had passed. SC Res. 1325 encourages Member States to increase the participation of women all of ages in decision making during peace processes.
World: Compilation of the United Nation's Resolutions on the Elderly
Refugees (February 2006)
This document contains a full compilation of resolutions on the elderly refugees. The provisions also call on States and/or UNHCR to ensure that the needs of elderly refugees are addressed. One provision urges all UN agencies to pay special attention to elderly
refugees and several provisions refer to the International Year of Older Persons in 1999.
World: Assistance to Survivors (January 4, 2006)
This report was written by the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. Indeed, beyond an important though general concern to "reduce human suffering," there is reference to some categories of people victimized by small arms misuse such as women, children and the elderly. The forthcoming Review Conference provides an opportunity to consider the issue and identify policy responses for States, civil society and international organizations to adopt.
Role of Elderly People in the Era of HIV/AIDS in Africa (January 2006)
This study aims mainly to highlight the need to change the role of elderly people in African households especially with the wide spread of HIV/AIDS infection. This main objective is realized in the study through different sub sections. Among them:
To figure out the demographic impact of HIV/AIDS on the age structure of the African population as a very important determinant of the rapid ageing in the region. To discuss how to activate the change of the role of older persons in the African household as care givers. To achieve better understanding about the challenges that may affect their ability to carry on their care-giving responsibilities.
Study on the Impact of Armed Conflicts on the Nutritional Situation of the Elderly (January 25, 2006)
These excerpts from the 2006 Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report deals with the impact of armed conflicts on the nutritional situation of the women, children and elderly. For older persons, nutrition surveillance data from Eastern Europe show that the elderly are often at a greater risk of becoming malnourished than other population groups. It is even more striking in Africa where life expectancy is still very low and where the younger generations struggle to live as well. The under-nutrition of the elderly is mostly due to sickness, cold, stress, and the inability to prepare food rather than an absolute lack of food. Psychological health also impacts more on elders' nutritional situation than it does for younger persons.
Photos: Elderly People are Vulnerable in Disasters (January 20, 2005)
Older persons worldwide suffer and die in disasters as this photo essay amply documents. The 2002 Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging spelled out the need for protection of older persons in armed conflict and emergencies. Now, in 2007, neither the UN nor most nations have taken the necessary steps to assure older persons’ right to protection in such terrible circumstances.
Protecting and Assisting Older People in Emergencies (December 2005)
Older people have particular needs that differ from those of younger members of a community, in particular in the areas of physical and mental health, nutrition and access to essential services. These require special consideration. But such special attention is rarely paid. The needs of older citizens are rarely incorporated in emergency policies and programmes, This paper argues that changes are required in the way essential services are delivered, and in how older people are viewed. The assumption that existing approaches address the entirety of the needs of old people is false. The report also argues that older people must not always be considered as a vulnerable group but mainstreamed with in the regular humanitarian system.
Reach Out: A Refugee Protection Training Project: Vulnerable Groups (November 1, 2005)
This article emphasizes group work to raise awareness and pool the knowledge of participants on special protection rights and needs related to gender, age, and, if time permits, on disability and health status (such as those refugees with HIV/AIDS who face discrimination). Through three different group exercises, the participants guide each other in learning about the rights and protection concerns of these refugees, with a focus on children, women and the elderly. This process of dialogue and discovery is supported by brief overview presentations and access to key learning materials that participants can consult during the training session.
How Women Prevent Violence and Build Sustainable Peace (October 2005)
Only recently has the international community returned to a discussion of the need and practical possibility of preventing the escalation of crises before they occur. Meanwhile, large numbers of women of all ages are leading efforts to prevent the outbreak of war, to address the root causes of conflict, and to meet the security and development needs of members of the global community. The importance of women's role in promoting socioeconomic development is described in this book. The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom asks the international community to provide financial and technical support to the women who design and implement programs for socio-economic development. In particular, look for projects serving the most vulnerable members of the population, including older persons.
World: Elderly Refugees Need More Protection and
Services (September 2006)
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, older
persons make up an estimated 10 to 30 percent of refugees. In addition to
facing the same war atrocities as other civilians, older individuals have
unique vulnerabilities and needs that place them at particular risk. In
this month National Council on Family Relation publication, Doctor Maureen
Lynch, Director of Research, Refugees International explains the specific
problems elderly refugees face, including lack of protection and security,
lack of recognized legal status, discrimination and loss of social support
World: Refugee Status Determination (September 2005)
The words "refugee status determination" are legalistic. But the process they refer to concerns human beings, usually those in circumstances of great distress. Answering somebody, if he or she is a "refugee" or not, is obviously of vital concern to the individuals concerned. If recognized as a refugee, a special legal regime applies and the person will be entitled to a number of important rights and benefits as well as assistance and protection measures which, taken together, constitute what is known as "international refugee protection." More specifically, elderly refugees are a special group with a lower profile but with particular needs that may be equally pressing. Decision-makers should examine claims for refugee status submitted by elderly men and women in an age-sensitive manner.
Security Council Presidential Statement Reaffirms Condemnation of Deliberate Targeting of Civilians in Armed Conflict (June 21, 2005)
At its June 21 meeting the United Nations Security Council strongly condemned the deliberate targeting of civilians in armed conflict and called on all parties to put an end to such practice. Speakers pointed to the need to include protection of civilians in all peacekeeping mandates, the need for more reliable resources for their protection and the need to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided in a non-discriminatory, balanced and proportionate manner. Representatives from Benin and Ivory Coast expressed their specific concern for the condition of the elderly as a vulnerable group in armed conflict situations.
for the Needs of Older Persons in Displaced Populations
Burnett Institute piece summarizes the issues facing older persons caught
in armed conflict situations.
It features research by agencies and organizations such as the UN
High Commissioner for Refugees, the Red Cross Movement and Help Age
International. The most pressing concerns of older refugees include access
to services, housing, isolation and a lack of mobility.
and Integration of Elderly Refugees Project, Final Report
Compiled by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), a
network of about 60 member agencies that work to assist refugees and
asylum seekers, this report seeks to help humanitarian aid workers
understand the interests and needs of older refugees living in
Europe. Most refugees entering the EU are under the age of 50, thus many of the
available supporting structures and programs - such as housing, language
tuition, and medical care - do not fit the specific needs of older
people. The report includes statistics, survey results, good practice
approaches and recommendations for serving elderly refugees.
UNHCR's Age and Gender Mainstreaming Pilot Project 2004 - Synthesis
This report assesses
the UNHCR age and gender mainstreaming project which was launched in 2004
after concerns in this area arose from independently conducted interviews
with refugee women, children and community services. The report, based on
eight country evaluations including
, provides an overview of the project experience, draws out findings,
lessons learned and recommendations for the future. The report found that the project had an impact on attitude change and
analytical approaches but also a need of greater focus on mainstreaming
age and gender within field offices and the UNHCR headquarters.
Women and War: Photos (March 2005)
These photographs depict women from around the world who have suffered as a result of armed conflict as well as women who are courageously coping with the impact of war on their lives. This exhibition was open to the public until the 1st of December 2002 at the Al Hussein Cultural Centre of the Greater Amman Municipality in Raas Al
Ain in Jordan.
Improving Women's Safety During Armed Conflict
Armed conflict situations increase the risk of sexual violence against women even though the Fourth Geneva Convention expressly prohibits rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault. Sexual violence can amount to a method of warfare when used to systematically torture, injure, degrade, threaten, intimidate or punish women of any age.
Lives on Hold: The Human Costs of Statelessness (February 14, 2005)
This report from Refugees International highlights the difficulties face by an estimated 11 million individuals worldwide who have no citizenship or effective nationality. They regularly cannot participate in the political process of any country and are guaranteed no legal protections. Because of their status, millions of stateless people have difficulty in obtaining jobs and owning property, receive inadequate access to healthcare and education, and suffer sexual and physical violence. Displaced women, especially widows, single mothers, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. RI interviewed this grandmother in one of the welfare centers. She explained that she and her grandson were separated from the rest of their family when they fled fighting in 1999. They have not received any food relief for a few
Conference on Natural Disasters Opens with Call for Better Mitigation
Measures (January 18, 2005)
The United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) opened in
Kobe, Japan where a disastrous earthquake killed 40,000 people in 1995.
Participants were over 4,000 from more than 150 countries. The Japanese
emperor, Akihito, said at the conference that "a precious opportunity
to share mutual experience, to protect lives and livelihoods of people
from natural disasters, by aiming to strengthen preparedness and to create
a society where people can live in safety and security." In
, tsunami warning is always issued after an earthquake in order to get
people evacuated. If
had had the same system, a lot of people would have not been killed by
dangerous waves. In most cases, elderly people and young children are
always the majority of victims. Natural disaster might happen anywhere in
the world so we should share knowledge and technology in order to prevent
Behavior During War (July 31, 2004)
(Report in French)
This study gathered different reports about the behavior of soldiers during war. In 2001, the International Committee of the Red Cross decided to study the issue of war behaviors in order to improve strategies to convince combatants to respect humanitarian international laws. The study explains some of the mental defenses that lead soldiers to commit atrocities such as raping elderly persons.Will
it be possible to impact these "defenses" that shape soldiers' behavior.
World: A Collection of Articles on Older
Refugees (July 2002)
Find here a collection of reports dealing with older refugees in terms
of the conditions they face, their specific needs, and their
contributions. Prepared by the Refugees Study Center of the University
of Oxford, the reports detail what happens to vulnerable older persons
caught in armed conflict and their needs for specific assistance.
However, beyond their vulnerability, the writers acknowledge how older
persons can mitigate the difficult situation, thanks to their experience
The Elderly in Situations of Armed Conflict
During the armed conflicts that have occurred since the adoption of the four Geneva Conventions, the proportion of civilian casualties has moved higher, reaching 90% in some cases. Among them, the elderly pay a heavy toll. The elderly do have a protection under the International Humanitarian Law which is not based upon categories of people. It means the elderly are considered as a "vulnerable" group as women or children. The law contains some provisions relating to the elderly but nothing about them in particular. There is for instance nothing about the age at which an individual is considered to be "elderly." That's why Françoise Krill from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRC) proposes different initiatives in this paper to give more specific protection to the elderly. The ICRC continues with its mission to spread knowledge of international humanitarian law, protect the civilian population, visit persons deprived of their freedom and provide medical and food aid.
Victims of Armed Conflict Through Respect of International
Humanitarian Law (November 6, 1999)
Under humanitarian law, the civilian population in general is protected
from dangers arising from military operations. However, some groups among
the population, such as children, women, the elderly, persons with
disabilities and displaced people, have specific needs and are entitled to
special attention. Civilians can also expect, under humanitarian law,
adequate care and respect. But one of the most acute challenges facing
humanitarian organisations at present is access to all the victims of an
armed conflict. As a matter of fact, when access to victims is denied,
there is no more protection, no more opportunity to put humanitarian laws
by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on the
occasion of the International Days of Older Persons (October 3, 1997)
In this speech Mrs. Sadako Ogata, UN
High Commissioner for Refugees, highlights the most invisible and
displaced group of refugees- older persons. Acknowledging the plights of
older refugees in conflicts such as
, Mrs. Ogata recommends three steps to improve the situation of older
persons: assessment of the special protection needs of older persons,
attention to the assistance needs of older persons and the need to create
public awareness about the suffering and needs of older persons among the