Missing millions: How older people with disabilities are excluded from humanitarian response – HelpAge International

Humanitarian Response

Missing millions: How older people with disabilities are excluded from humanitarian response
HelpAge International
2018 :: 60 pages
Authors: Phillip Sheppard and Sarah Polack, International Centre for Evidence in Disability at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Madeleine McGivern, HelpAge International
Key findings
We found that older people with disabilities fared worse than older people without disabilities.
We identified a number of barriers that made it harder for them to escape from danger and exercise their right to humanitarian assistance and participation.

Older people with disabilities faced physical barriers such as having to travel long distances to distribution points, lack of accessible transport, and inaccessible houses, toilets and public buildings. It was clear that low-cost adaptations such as wheelchair ramps could make a big difference. Older people with disabilities also faced attitudinal barriers, and at times were
made to feel humiliated trying to access their rights in humanitarian settings. Thirdly, they faced institutional barriers, such as a requirement to collect food aid and social protection payments in person. These combined to threaten their right to independence, dignity and participation.

We also identified factors that enabled older people to exercise their rights. Families, neighbours and socialstructures were particularly important. Transport, proximity to services and home visits by health staff, community workers and “incentive workers” in camps (providing information to older people) also madea significant difference.

Interviews with staff from international organisations highlighted a disconnect between age-focused organisations and disability-focused organisations, from local to global level, and concerns about collecting data on disability and ageing, meaning that older people are at risk of being missed out of efforts towards disability inclusion and vice versa…

Our research identified a number of factors that promote the right of older people with disabilities to safe and dignified access to humanitarian assistance. These included the provision of rehabilitation and assistive devices, ensuring proximity to services and aid distribution or provision of transport to these services, as well as assistance from family members, and home visits by community, health, and social workers which promoted independence, inclusion and participation.

However, the research also identified physical barriers (such as distance, lack of transport and inaccessible houses and public buildings), attitudinal barriers (such as being told to go away) and institutional barriers (such as requiring people to be physically present to claim social protection and humanitarian assistance) that are likely to disproportionately affect older people with disabilities. This is particularly so, taking into account their greater risk of poverty and
higher healthcare and rehabilitation needs.

Considering that disability is most common among older people, and that numbers of older people are rising globally due to population ageing, there is a need to increase the visibility of older people with disabilities in humanitarian action and promote their meaningful inclusion. This involves not just addressing their needs for assistance and protection, but also enabling them to participate in decision-making on issues that affect them, so that they can exercise their rights in full.