Leading British charities – including HelpAge sister organisation, Age International – will launch a public fundraising appeal this Thursday to provide humanitarian assistance to people affected by the conflict in Syria.
The appeal by the 14 member organisations of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) follows a dramatic deterioration in the humanitarian situation since the beginning of the year and will help fund HelpAge International's work with Syrian refugees.
The DEC said that the majority of its members were supporting work inside Syria but most could not talk publicly about their activities without putting their work and workers at risk.
Responding to the Syrian refugee crisis
DEC member agencies are also providing help to some of the more than 1 million refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries. HelpAge International is currently collaborating with Handicap International to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan.
We are using our joint expertise to identify the needs of the most vulnerable groups affected by the conflict in Syria. This includes older people and people with disabilities, to ensure their access to essential relief services and to look at the best ways of providing further assistance.
Worsening crisis in Syria
Many older people stayed behind in their homes for as long as possible but now that the crisis in Syria has worsened they are fleeing in greater numbers, often arriving at already overcrowded refugee camps. They are finding it harder to stay with host families whose homes are already full.
Older people are having to pay ever increasing prices for basic essentials and deal with a system which is not equipped to cater for their specific needs. Because most Syrian refugees have their identity documents retained when they enter Jordan at the unofficial border crossing, they are unable to work. This means they are struggling to obtain enough cash to cover rent and food.
According to UNHCR data from Zaatari camp, 3% of the Syrian refugees are aged 60 and over. However, they account for 7% of the acute health conditions and 21% of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
This indicates that older refugees affected by the conflict in Syria are disproportionately at risk and in need of humanitarian assistance.
Reaching vulnerable Syrian refugees
Frances Stevenson, Head of Emergencies at HelpAge International, said:
"Vast numbers of Syrian refugees are fleeing into Jordan and Lebanon. Among them are thousands of people who are extremely vulnerable. Many are older people and people with disabilities.
"HelpAge International and Handicap International have teamed up to make sure those refugees receive the essential assistance they need to survive, and to do so with dignity.
"With the DEC money, HelpAge and Handicap International will work closely with other aid agencies to help them to reach particularly vulnerable people affected by the conflict in Syria.
"We will help them to provide the appropriate kind of relief and services for the particular needs of older people and people with disabilities, and to make sure the assistance is accessible for people with only limited strength and mobility.
"We will also identify the most frail, isolated and vulnerable older or disabled people and provide them with direct assistance so they have the basic essentials of a roof over their heads, food, clothing and medical care."