(Kyiv, 1 October 2019): Older people are the foundation of a stronger society. Although their inclusion can help build more resilient communities, the elderly are often marginalized and remain among the most vulnerable. On the International Day of Older Persons, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine, Ms. Osnat Lubrani, underscores the importance of empowering older people as part of reducing inequality and calls for increased assistance and protection of the elderly in Ukraine and around the world.
In eastern Ukraine, violence and the loss of employment have forced many youth and working-age adults to leave conflict-affected areas. The elderly, on the other hand, have stayed behind, bearing the heaviest brunt of the conflict. Some 30 per cent of the 3.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection in eastern Ukraine is above the age of 60 – the highest proportion of elderly affected by a crisis in the world. “The conflict in eastern Ukraine continues to affect the elderly disproportionately. Today, the United Nations calls for attention to their specific needs,” said Ms. Lubrani. The elderly require more healthcare support – yet often live in areas cut off from health services. They count on public transportation – yet live in areas along the “contact line” where transportation networks have been disrupted. They require easy access to food and basic supplies – yet live in areas isolated from markets.
The elderly also rely heavily on their pensions. Yet those in areas outside of Government control are forced to regularly cross the “contact line,” that separates the conflict-affected areas, to access their pensions. Yet many pensioners cannot physically travel or do not have the means to. “More than 700,000 pensioners have lost access to their hard-earned pensions. For many, this is the only source of income,” noted Ms. Lubrani. “The Government of Ukraine must do all it can to ease procedures that inhibit people’s access to pensions and restore payment of pensions to all Ukrainian citizens, regardless of their place of residence,” Ms. Lubrani said.
Those who travel across the “contact line,” must endure severe hardships while crossing through one of the five checkpoints. “It is unacceptable that the elderly must spend several hours a day to cross the “contact line” just to access their pensions,” said Ms. Lubrani, noting that despite some improvements, the crossing conditions are challenging and lack basic medical and transportation facilities. “We must do more to improve crossing conditions, especially for the most vulnerable.”
“There is no better time than today to remind ourselves of the suffering that civilians, including the elderly, experience due to the ongoing conflict in the East,” said Ms. Lubrani. “While our humanitarian efforts are making a difference and bringing hope, what the people of eastern Ukraine want the most is peace,” Ms. Lubrani concluded.
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