Sudan: World calls for action on Darfur after four years

On the fourth anniversary of the Darfur crisis, HelpAge International is calling on humanitarian organisations to adopt an intergenerational approach to the delivery of aid and to building peace and reconciliation initiatives.

HelpAge International is calling on the health delivery organisations to train staff to address the specific health needs of older people.

More than 2 million people have been displaced and many face the prospect that they will not be able to return home. HelpAge International estimates that 55,000 older people have been displaced, leaving them isolated and without access to basic services.

Today, HelpAge International works in seven camps in West Darfur: Ardamatta, Gokar, Kerenek, Krinding I, Mornei, Riyadh and Sisi. Recognition of the vulnerability of older people has been slow. Older people make up about 10% of IDP camp numbers but suffer disproportionately.

HelpAge International research found:-

- 61 per cent of older people living in camps are affected by illness or chronic disease that needs specialised treatment.

- 40 per cent are at risk of malnutrition.

- 45 per cent do not have adequate shelter.

- 29 per cent are caring for orphans with no visible means of supporting them.

HelpAge International has been working in West Darfur since 2004. The report Rebuilding lives in longer term emergencies not only highlights the issues affecting older people but also offers examples of good practice.

HelpAge International has been improving access to health services and reaching the 'invisible vulnerable' through a network of community health workers who carry out door-to-door assessments. The organisation has also launched a system of donkey cart ambulances to ferry those with mobility problems to health centres.

Nutrition centres where older people can go three times a week to share a freshly cooked meal have enabled them to access protein and vitamins missing from their camp diet.

To combat social isolation, HelpAge International has set up social centres for older people to meet, share stories and make traditional handicrafts. HelpAge International also brings together older and younger people at storytelling events to encourage the continuity of traditional roles such as educator and build intergenerational relationships.

Richard Blewitt, HelpAge International's Chief Executive Officer says: "Older people are probably the least visible demographic group in the Darfur conflict. Many humanitarian agencies focus on other vulnerable groups such as children and women, and addressing older people's needs is often not seen as a priority. HelpAge International advocates for more comprehensive responses across the generational divide, which will contribute to rebuilding communities in Darfur."