Older refugees at huge risk in Syria
Published on 22 March 2013 09:30 AM
As the refugee crisis deepens in Syria, Age UK has seen first hand how older people are suffering more than most as they flee the war-torn country.
Our emergency field worker on the ground saw 1,000 people cross the border under cover of the night in just 3 hours, with another 800 due to arrive before dawn.
Speaking from the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan, Amandine gave us this report:
'Older people are often ignored during emergencies like this. The lucky ones who are not pushed out of the way in queues waiting for aid are often given packages that are too heavy to carry, difficult to open and contain food they find hard to digest.
'I see 3 buses and another ambulance arrive. The nurses call us as an older man with disabilities is stuck on the bus. He's the last passenger and cannot move to get off the bus.
'His son is with him; he looks exhausted. There is only one wheelchair available to transport vulnerable people with disabilities.
'His son and two staff help the older man off the bus. The son, aged around 55, tells us his father is 90.
'It has taken three days to cross the border by foot, the father in the wheelchair, the son, his wife and seven children. I ask him how he feels, he smiles and replies: "Severely exhausted".
'An hour later, we reach the registration area. It is very dark and cold. We meet the same older man in the wheelchair with his son.
'It's a chore for his son to push the wheelchair on this sandy and stony ground. I don't understand why nothing has been done to make this area safe and accessible.'
'The camp is already overcrowded and older people are desperately in need. With more and more refugees arriving each night, it is vital that we act now.'
How is Age UK helping?
We are working with our subsidiary charity, Age International. We already have a local partner on the ground in the surrounding countries to help older refugees, and are planning an additional programme of support within weeks.
Money donated will help supply emergency food programmes that are tailored to meet the needs of older people and their specific dietary requirements.
Money donated will help supply food, clean water, and vital health services such as walking sticks, frames and glasses, as well as treatment for chronic conditions that are more common in older age.
Age International is raising money together with the DEC for the Syria Crisis Appeal. The DEC is a consortium of 14 aid agencies working together in times of disasters and emergencies.
Any income not spent after 12 months may be allocated to another emergency situation that requires our support.