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Caring for older refugees in Ethiopia through COVID-19

Ethiopia has one of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases in Africa. Together with HelpAge International we have been responding to the needs of South Sudanese refugees, with a specific focus on the needs of older people and people with disabilities in the Gambella refugee camps in Ethiopia. Support has included providing handwashing stations in public areas, hygiene materials and PPE to older person led households and healthcare staff, and training home-based carers.

Nyduel, 94, was forced to leave his home in South Sudan’s Jongley state in 2016 due to war and conflict. With the help of humanitarian organisations, he migrated to Ethiopia's Nguenyyiel refugee camp with his youngest son but the rest of his children are still in South Sudan.

“I lost eyesight in both eyes after I arrived at Nguenyyiel for unknown reason. Later, in 2018 I experienced low back pain and my lower extremities were weak, making walking difficult.

In 2018, the HelpAge team came to my house for a visit and fitted me with a wheelchair for mobility assistance. After that, the team came to my house on a regular basis to advise me on personal hygiene, wheelchair use, latrine usage, psychosocial support, and how my caretaker could provide the support I needed. A home-based carer has been providing assistance once a week and last year I also received fresh food through HelpAge.

The team’s assistance has continued through the COVID-19 pandemic, where they and the Older Persons Association’s members have been teaching us about the core preventive measures such as regular hand washing, remaining at home and socially distancing. They have also provided face masks, soap and sanitiser.

“I’d like to express my gratitude to HelpAge and it’s staff. In the future I hope to get my sight back, move from place to place and socialise with my friends.”

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Last updated: May 06 2021

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