In 2012 the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) prepared a detailed guide on the inclusion of older persons in disaster management (see Pan American Health Organization, Guidelines for Mainstreaming the Needs of Older Persons in Disaster Situations in the Caribbean: A Contribution to World Health Day 2012 Ageing and Health, Washington, D.C., 2012).
Between 2008 and 2011, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided funding to HelpAge International to second two experts on ageing to the Global Production Cluster. Their role was to help cluster members working in the field to identify and respond to the protection risks facing older persons affected by conflicts and natural disasters, as well as to incorporate their needs into evidence-based protection programming (see the conclusion of this work in Protecting older people in emergencies: good practice guide [online] http://www.globalprotectioncluster.org/_assets/files/tools_and_guidance/age_gender_diversity/HelpAge_Older_People_Best_Practices_EN.pdf.
Possible lines of action
1. Identify older persons who are vulnerable (due to chronic diseases, dementia or reduced mobility) in planning for disaster management. 2. Sensitize and train workers who play key roles in disaster management as to the specific needs of older persons. 3. Promote interagency and intersectoral collaboration for taking older persons into account in official disaster management activities. 4. Ensure that older persons are represented in national and local disaster management committees. 5. Make use of older persons’ knowledge in the design and implementation of disaster risk reduction activities. 6. Review disaster management plans regularly to ensure that older persons are included as a priority attention group. 7. Ensure that personnel providing care and services to older persons are aware of and informed about their responsibilities. 8. Adjust humanitarian aid distribution plans to ensure that older persons have adequate access to food and water. 9. Guarantee the safety and accessibility of shelters for older persons, especially those with functional limitations and those requiring medical care. 10. Restore access to health and care services for older persons, with attention to the reestablishment of treatments essential for maintaining or recovering their health. 11. Include older persons as beneficiaries of housing reconstruction programmes. 12. Take steps to prevent violence against older persons, and in particular sexual abuse and gender violence. 13. Evaluate the lessons learned and the specific impacts on older persons in the post-disaster phase.
Related instruments, forums and mechanisms
The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing addresses this subject in objective 1 of issue 8, under priority direction 1 (“Equal access by older persons to food, shelter and medical care and other services during and after natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies”).
The San José Charter on the rights of older persons in Latin America and the Caribbean declares the following with respect to this topic: “We draw attention to the vulnerability of older persons in emergency situations and following natural disasters and undertake to work to: (a) include priority, preferential assistance for older persons in disaster relief plans; (b) prepare national guidelines that include older persons is a priority group given preferential treatment in disaster preparedness, relief worker training and the availability of goods and services; (c) give priority and preferential treatment to the needs of older persons during post-emergency or post-conflict reconstruction.”
The measure is also related to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly target 13.1 (“Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate related hazards and natural disasters in all countries”) and target 13.3 (“Improve education, awareness raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning”).
Article 29 (“Situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies”) of the Inter-American Convention on protecting the human rights of older persons establishes that “States Parties shall adopt all necessary specific measures to ensure the safety and rights of older persons in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies, and disasters, in accordance with the norms of international law, particularly international human rights law and international humanitarian law. States Parties shall adopt assistance measures specific to the needs of older persons in preparedness, prevention, reconstruction, and recovery activities associated with emergencies, disasters, and conflict situations. States Parties shall foster the participation of interested older persons in civil protection protocols in the event of natural disasters.”