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Missing millions: How older people with disabilities are excluded from humanitarian response

SHEPPARD, Phillip
POLACK, Sarah
McGIVERN, Madeleine
July 2018

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The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of older people with disabilities across a range of humanitarian settings, considering:

  • whether older people with disabilities have additional needs and challenges accessing humanitarian assistance and protection
  • what factors facilitate or limit access by older people with disabilities to humanitarian assistance and protection
  • to what extent is humanitarian response inclusive of older people with disabilities

A systematic literature review of published studies was conducted. Key online humanitarian guidelines were explored to review how far they explicitly address older people with disabilities. Data from six population-based disability surveys comparing the living situation of older people with and without disabilities were analysed. These included databases from two crises-affected populations in Haiti (post-earthquake) and Palestine. Data from four non-humanitarian settings was also reviewed to explore more broadly the situation for older people with disabilities – India, Guatemala, Cameroon and Nepal. Interviews were held with older people with disabilities, members of their families and local key informants in two conflict-affected populations in Ndutu and Mtendeli refugee camps in Western Tanzania, and Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Eastern Ukraine to find out about their experiences. Staff of five international agencies working in humanitarian response were also interviewed. 

 

Findings highlight particular issues facing older people with disabilities in humanitarian crises: more risk escaping from danger;  barriers to accessing social protection and work; barriers to accessing health and rehabilitation services; barriers to accessing food and other essentials; unsuitable housing and poor living conditions;  insecurity and discrimination; threats to dignity and independence; social isolation and loneliness; risks to mental health; and missing from humanitarian response.

 

A table brings together the findings from the different components of the research to show the needs, risks, barriers and enablers for older people with disabilities identified in the research. Recommendations are provided to humanitarian donors, policy makers and practitioners

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