Fears Grow For Older People Left Behind In East Africa Food Crisis

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A hidden tragedy is unfolding in many parts of East Africa as many thousands of older people are unable to travel to refugee camps for help, Age UK and HelpAge International are warning.

It is often the oldest people who are the most vulnerable, but also the most neglected in emergency situations.

A hidden tragedy is unfolding in many parts of East Africa as many thousands of older people are unable to travel to refugee camps for help, Age UK and HelpAge International are warning.

The region is in the grip of a drought and resulting severe food crisis that have forced many working age adults from the countryside to displaced camps to find food or to the cities in a desperate search for work.

The most vulnerable, older people and small children are often left behind and Age UK and HelpAge International report that in some rural East Africa communities the older population now account for up to one in two - a shocking rise from the background rate of 5 per cent.

The charities warn that the outlook is bleak for all those left behind in isolated villages where resources are dwindling and it is much harder for aid agencies to reach them.

Age UK and sister charity Help Age International are currently funding a project in the Borana zone, Ethiopia, which is providing much-needed emergency aid to an estimated 44,800 older people.

It is now appealing for additional funds in order to reach a further 100,000 people. The charities hope to distribute food, water and healthcare to older people, as well as providing clean water supplies, animal feed and veterinary care for livestock.

Alison Rusinow, Country Programme Manager for HelpAge International in Ethiopia, commented: ‘There is no question about it, this is a severe situation. We know of communities where half of the population are now comprised of older people who are struggling to survive, and in many cases trying to feed their grandchildren. We know these older people are likely to be more malnourished as they feed younger family members before themselves. “

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director of Age UK, commented: “It is often the oldest people who are the most vulnerable, but also the most neglected in emergency situations. We are relieved that after months of lobbying from aid agencies, the East Africa crisis is finally getting attention from the international community but the tragedy stretches far beyond the camps that are featured in media coverage at the moment.”

Notes to Editors:

Age UK
For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.

We provide free information, advice and support to over five million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group (“we”). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity’s trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

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