Since the beginning of the clashes in Ukraine on Thursday, people fleeing the fighting are multiplying and flocking to neighboring countries, especially to Poland. While the world is concerned about the fate of women and children, the situation of the elderly is little or not mentioned. However, according to the international network HelpAge, out of the millions of lives to be affected by the Russian invasion, 2 million elderly people are at risk in Eastern Ukraine, even at high risk.
In this type of conflict, several factors mean that the elderly regularly find themselves doubly victimized: it is very complicated for them to flee the conflict zones and they find themselves isolated and cut off from all contact with their family or community. Moreover, taking shelter from possible bombing or fighting can also be difficult for people with reduced mobility, which makes them even more vulnerable. When people remain in combat zones, they quickly find themselves isolated and without access to much-needed medicine, food or assistance.
A study conducted by HelpAge in 2014, shortly after Russia’s annexation of Crimea established the particular risks faced by older people when such conflicts occur:
- “Difficulties escaping or avoiding fighting, which will result in them being separated them from their families and lead to social exclusion and isolation. The vast majority (96%) of older people surveyed experienced conflict-related mental health issues.
- Risk of severe income shortages as nearly every older person affected (99%) relied on a pension as their main source of income, which can be disrputed if they cannot cannot access payment points.
- A lack of access to and difficulty affording healthcare. 97% of people surveyed had at least one chronic disease, and not being able to access healthcare represents a major issue.
- Poor living conditions and a lack of support for those with disabilities. Over half (53%) of older people reported needing assistive devices, including walking frames, canes and toilet chairs.” (from HelpAge article, February 24, 2022).
The invasion of Russia reminds those who experienced the previous invasion of 2014 and in particular the bombings that left traumatic memories. For some elderly people, the bombings even bring back older memories: those of the World War II.
It is thus more than urgent to set up protection processes for all the Ukrainian elderly, and not to leave them behind. The member organizations of the International Federation’s network present in Poland and Romania are mobilizing to provide support for the future displaced persons arriving straight from Ukraine.
If you wish to support the organization Mali Bracia Ubogich (Poland) or the organization Niciodata Singur – prietenii vârstnicilor (Romania) you can make a donation on the International Federation website or give directly to these organizations.
Mali Bracia Ubogich: https://www.obecnoscpomaga.pl/
Niciodată Singur: https://niciodatasingur.ro/doneaza/