Older people at severe risk from the bombardment in Gaza

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Older people are at severe risk from the bombardment in Gaza, unable to flee their homes and in urgent need of medical support, HelpAge International said today.

Around 10 older people in Gaza have already been killed by the recent escalation in violence and many more are at risk, living in houses exposed to the bombardment.

Chris McIvor, HelpAge International Regional Representative in the Middle East said: “Older people in Gaza have shown phenomenal resilience over the last few decades but this latest round of hostilities could be one round too many for the thousands who have been living under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic for the past 12 months.

“Many are unable to flee for safety and are particularly exposed to bombs that are destroying buildings and houses."

The situation has been described as an “unimaginable nightmare” for older people by Oday El Meghari, Executive Manager of El-Wedad Society for Community Rehabilitation (WSCR), HelpAge’s partner organisation in the territory. He said that these were the worst atrocities experienced in the region in almost a decade.

He described the fate of a husband and wife aged over 60 who were unable to flee from the bombardment and were trapped in rubble of their house in the northern Gaza Strip. By the time the Civil Defence was able to reach them, they had died of suffocation.

According to Oday El Meghari a significant number of older people are amongst those who have lost their homes because of the bombardment, many of whom need medical, health and relief care, and medicines which cannot reach them.

They are also being exposed to risk from a COVID-19 outbreak within the community. They have been forced to shelter in overcrowded areas inside schools where few prevention or safety measures are possible.

Oday El Meghari said: “The El-Wedad Society, as the primary organisation in the Gaza Strip and Palestine looking after the needs of older people, is facing tremendous difficulties in providing protection and care in these difficult circumstances due to the lack of resources and scarcity of funding.”

The roads around the El-Wedad office have been destroyed by the bombing and many areas are without electricity , and the water supply has been damaged.

There are fears that hospitals responding to the COVID-19 pandemic may run out of life-saving oxygen or electricity and transporting patients to hospitals can be dangerous in the current circumstances.

Chris McIvor said: “Nothing can justify a level of violence in which older people and children have so indiscriminately been caught up. The hostilities by both sides should cease. There must be an immediate peaceful resolution to this conflict that will allow people to continue their lives in safety and dignity.”