Health interventions for older people in emergencies

Manual and Guideline
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This manual produced with funding from the European Community’s Humanitarian Office (ECHO) provides guidance for the implementation of five key action points to address the health needs of older people in emergencies:

  • Assess the health needs of older people and identify the existing gaps in the health system.
  • Strengthen the health system to cope with older people’s health needs to ensure they have access to effective safe and quality services.
  • Provide integrated essential health services to older people including treatment for non-communicable diseases.
  • Build partnerships with public or private health facilities and (I)NGOs to integrate care for older people in the health system at primary and secondary levels.
  • Advocate for older people’s right to health by building relationships with key decision-makers, and make evidence-based recommendations for inclusive programming in key fora.

The primary target of this document is humanitarian workers working in the field. No specific knowledge of health is assumed. At both global and field level, this guidance can also be used to highlight and advocate for the health needs of older people in humanitarian crises.

Older people constitute a significant and growing number of those affected by humanitarian crises. About 12.5 % of the world’s population is aged 60 or over; more than 22% are aged 50 or over. By 2050, there will be more older people over 60 than children, including a significant number over 80, who constitute the fastest-growing age group. This unprecedented growth has significantly changed the demographic and epidemiological profile of disaster-affected populations.

Health is a critical determinant of survival in a disaster and older people are particularly vulnerable to the disruption of health services. Yet there are relatively few interventions that target older people’s health in emergencies, aiming to reduce their mortality and morbidity.