COVID-19 Crisis: Age International working to reach those most vulnerable
Published on 21 March 2020 04:04 PM
The spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) is a huge threat to older people across the world who are already facing life-threatening challenges because of other health conditions, poverty, discrimination and humanitarian crises.
Age UK is supporting older people in the UK, and Age International is working to reach those in high-risk areas in lower-income countries where healthcare systems are already severely stretched.
Threats to older people
Covid-19 is a new disease that causes respiratory infection. The risk of dying from Covid-19 increases with age – most of the deaths recorded have been in people older than 60, and in particular those with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Initial research in China based on over 44,000 cases of Covid-19, showed a mortality rate of 2.3% for the general population, rising to 8% in those aged 70-79 and nearly 15% in those 80 and over.
69% of the global population aged over 60 live in low- and middle-income countries. These people are at greater risk of catching the virus, threatening their lives.
The impact will affect not only them, but their families and communities.
Threats to people in low and middle income countries
Covid-19 has been characterised by the WHO as “a controllable pandemic” which all countries need to prepare for and respond to. This presents a challenge for low- and middle income countries with weaker health and care systems. The capacity of health systems in these countries to screen, let alone treat, Covid-19, will be very limited.
This will also become a humanitarian crisis. When Covid-19 reaches internally displaced people and refugees who are already living in difficult circumstances, it will have an even greater impact and push the delivery of health and social services to the breaking point.
Even without Covid-19, older people living in these situations do not get the full support they need so the urgency to deliver appropriate services for older people right now has never been higher.
What are the wider impacts?
Aside from the very immediate threat to lives, the impact of Covid-19 extends far beyond the individual lives of those who die because of the virus.
This is a social and economic crisis, as much as a medical one.
Many parents in developing countries are working at a distance from their families and have left their children in the care of grandparents - who are most at risk. Responses to Covid-19 that limit contact and communication between people will also have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of those older people who are most vulnerable in society, with disastrous results for them, their families and the whole community.
What we are doing to help
Age International, together with our partner HelpAge International, is taking immediate steps to respond to the crisis:
We are responding to to some of the urgent needs that older people will be facing as a result of Covid-19. For example, we are providing support to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on Syrian refugees by training healthcare workers, providing hygiene kits and identifying hospitals with Intensive Care Units and isolation facilities. We are also supporting public awareness raising to reduce the risk of infection.
We will work with our fellow DEC members to advise on how best to respond to the needs of older people and their families in low income countries and humanitarian crisis settings in the context of Covid-19.
We are in touch with the UK Government Departments responsible for responding to the pandemic internationally and are urging them to include older people in their global response to Covid-19.
Covid-19 Crisis Appeal
We are proud to be part of Age UK, which is doing so much to support older people in our country at this time. Age International is working to reach those in high-risk areas in low-income countries where healthcare systems are already severely stretched, or already weak, or non-existent.