Older voices in humanitarian crises: calling for change

Older voices in humanitarian crises: calling for change

This report documents the situation of older refugees fleeing from conflict in Syria, Ukraine and South Sudan. The findings contribute to a growing body of evidence illustrating the failure of the humanitarian system to protect older people’s rights or meet their needs. The stories highlight the limited progress the humanitarian system has made to address the neglect of older people and other vulnerable groups.


In order to address the neglect faced by older people in emergencies, their opinions must be heard and changes made in the humanitarian system. Based on the findings of consultations with older women and men, HelpAge International is calling for the following:

Humanitarian responders should:

  • systematically engage with all affected people, including older women and men, to deliver meaningful participation and ensure that their views are reflected in responses, including assessment, design, delivery and monitoring and evaluation
  • collect, fully disaggregate, and utilise data for different population groups including older people, in order to provide robust evidence to design, revise and learn from programming that is reflective of, and appropriate for, the people and needs identified
  • address gaps in the quality of primary healthcare services for those with chronic diseases, ensuring adequate provision of NCD drugs and access to laboratory tests at primary healthcare level
  • ensure services to address psychological distress are accessible to older men and women, providing outreach counselling and support services for those who are unable to attend health centres
  • ensure mainstream response activities consider the needs of older men and women providing age-sensitive and physically accessible services. Provide outreach services for isolated people who cannot reach services

Humanitarian donors should:

  • Ensure that funding is commensurate with the scale of needs and is allocated impartially, recognising the needs of different groups including older people
  • Ensure funding is allocated only to funding actions that include an inclusive analysis of needs based on data that is fully disaggregated by sex, age and disability

All humanitarians should:

  • contribute to developing the understanding and skills of humanitarian actors so they can identify the needs of older people and deliver appropriate assistance
  • take responsibility for building core understanding among staff of the humanitarian principles and available guidance in support of inclusive programming for marginalised groups including older people. Where appropriate, build specialist skills to address the needs of vulnerable people in crisis