Efforts are being made to better understand and respond to the needs of older people and people with disabilities in humanitarian crises.

Islamic Relief has been chosen to be part of a three-year programme developed by a number of different organisations, academics and government bodies.

One in eight people in the world today are aged 60 or older, and 15 per cent of the world’s population live with a disability. By 2050, two billion – roughly one fifth – of the world’s population will be aged older than 60. In conflicts and natural disasters, the risk of disability increases, yet the specific needs of people who have a disability or are older are often overlooked.1

The three-year project, named Age and Disability Capacity Programme (ADCAP), has already developed a set of Minimum Standards for Age and Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action, interactive e-learning for humanitarian workers, and open access materials for face-to-face training. Islamic Relief has employed an Age and Disability Inclusion Advisor, and will be working to ensure its humanitarian response builds in best practice when responding to their needs.

Working for dignity

adcap logoResearch carried out by HelpAge International, which is leading the initiative, found a number of concerns shared by many older people in humanitarian contexts. They included the fact that adult children did not automatically offer their parents shelter but insisted they find their own; that temporary shelters with cold, hard sleeping surfaces could turn chronic but manageable joint problems into acute, severely debilitating problems; and that mobility problems prevented people from moving to safety with their families, accessing services, or keeping warm.

Many of the same issues affect people with disabilities. Some will be literally hidden away from society by their families because of stigma and so accessing them can be difficult. Others gain their disability as a consequence of the crisis, whether conflict or a natural disaster, and need help to adapt to the changes.

Dr Mohamed Ashmawey, CEO of Islamic Relief, said: “We treat people in need with dignity as human beings and provide them with the assistance and protection needed in any humanitarian crisis. We all need to recognise, however, that we can do a lot more for older women and men and people with disabilities.”

Sherin Alsheikh Ahmed, age and disability inclusion advisor for Islamic Relief, said: “Islamic Relief has years of experience in responding to humanitarian disasters. This new project will allow us to step back and consider small changes we could make that would positively impact on people made vulnerable by the crises they are facing.”

ADCAP is an initiative of the Age and Disability Consortium, a group of seven agencies which are working to promote age and disability-inclusive humanitarian assistance. They are CBM, DisasterReady.org, Handicap International, HelpAge International, IFRC, Oxford Brookes University and RedR UK. The programme is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID).

Islamic Relief already has projects working with older people and people with disabilities, such as with older people South Sudan, blind children in Chechnya, and people who have lost limbs in Jordan.

1. Source: UN Population Ageing and Development 2012 report

Consortium images