Nepal earthquake: 650,000 older people need aid
Published on 11 May 2015 12:00 PM
DEC member Age International warns that 650,000 people aged 60 and over urgently need aid following the recent earthquake in Nepal.
Unless older people are specifically targeted in the response, Age International says that their needs are at risk of being overlooked in the aftermath.
In earthquakes, older people and people with disabilities are at increased risk of death and injury because they are often less mobile and therefore cannot flee from shaking buildings; they can also face mobility or visual or hearing challenges.
It's also harder for older people to carry belongings with them and to sleep on the hard, cold ground as they are more prone to joint problems.
Chris Roles, Director of Age International, said: 'We've seen that wherever a natural disaster occurs, whether in a developing country like Nepal or developed nations like Japan or the USA, older people can be especially vulnerable.
'Not only can fleeing or surviving the initial disaster be more challenging, but the lack of essential healthcare available for older people after a disaster, like medicine to treat diabetes or replacement glasses or mobility aids is a significant concern.'
2.2 million people aged over 60 in Nepal
There are approximately 2.2 million people aged over 60 in Nepal, with a higher percentage of older people in the areas affected by the earthquake than in Nepal as a whole (10% in affected areas vs 8.1% nationally).
Older people face particular challenges that need to be taken into account during a humanitarian emergency. For example, exposure to cold, damp conditions can worsen arthritis, making mobility difficult and food packets difficult to open, and chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease, can quickly become life-threatening without treatment.
Dilmaya Shrestha, 70, was at home with her brother and his wife when the earthquake hit: 'I was twirling a thread of cotton for our oil lamp when the earthquake struck. I couldn't escape quickly enough because I have joint pains. Suddenly the ceiling fell down on me and I was pinned to the ground with my head covered in blood.' she said
Dilmaya's brother Byakuman, 75, and sister-in-law Sunamaya, 67, managed to escape the room upstairs but struggled to release her.
'I was really scared. The house was still shaking but I kept on trying to pull her out. I never gave up,' said Sunamaya. 'I thought we would not make it out alive.'
The family all made it out of the house before it completely collapsed.
Age International's partner in Nepal is distributing cash grants to help thousands of older people and their families buy much-needed food, water, medicine or other goods, and working to make sure that older people can effectively access the healthcare they need.
The Nepal Red Cross has created an area within a camp in Kathmandu to shelter older people. Community leader Robin Raya said: 'We wanted to prioritise the older people - they're very fragile. Many of them are suffering from chest infections and fevers after sleeping on the floor outside for nearly two weeks.
'These tents will make a difference - they're not home but they are enough to protect the elderly as much as we can at this point.'
DEC member agencies are supporting people with disabilities and older people by:
- ensuring that distributions are age-friendly and appropriate for older people
- setting up an ageing and gender working group
- assessing the most effective health and nutrition response so that older people can access the healthcare they need for chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, as well as other health conditions.
- supporting local organisations to make strong statements to ensure that agencies responding to the disaster are aware of older people's needs, for example for mobility aids or medical care for chronic diseases.
- creating areas within camps for older residents and other people who are more at risk of illness due to displacement
Please donate now to the Nepal Earthquake Appeal