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The impact of COVID-19 on older persons

In early May the UN published its brief on the impact of COVID-19 on older persons. The brief indicates a significant step forward by the UN in putting older people front and center of its COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan. It highlights the huge role older people play within society, community and family. 

Listen to our Head of Policy and Influencing, Ken Bluestone to understand why the rights and needs of older people have to be firmly a part of the response to COVID-19.

A statement from our network partner HelpAge states:

'Many of the omissions in the first version of the plan, which failed to recognise older people as a ‘most affected and at-risk population group’, despite facing the greatest health impact from COVID-19, have now been rectified.

"Today’s update to the Global Humanitarian Response Plan marks a notable transformation from the UN’s previous position and is news that will be welcomed by anyone working with older people around the world,” said Justin Derbyshire, Chief Executive of HelpAge International.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brutally exposed longstanding issues in the way that older people have been neglected and excluded in humanitarian responses. We hope that the leadership provided by UN OCHA and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) in this revision will be a first step towards addressing the gaps in the humanitarian system.

“The outcome for many older people and their families will be catastrophic unless specific, targeted action is taken. COVID-19 is highlighting the multiple challenges faced by the humanitarian sector in addressing an important part of our society. As today’s updated plan recognises: older people must no longer be left behind.

“Older people need more than words. There has been little evidence of any specific attention to older people’s rights and needs in progress reported over the last month by humanitarian agencies, even against objectives that specifically reference older people.”

The updated plan identifies attention to older age among the main areas that need to be scaled-up and calls for the analysis of risks to older people to be strengthened at country level. But many donors and humanitarian organisations are responding by scaling up existing programmes and partnerships which reflect priorities that were put in place before the pandemic.

Humanitarian agencies and donors must now implement the plan developed by UN OCHA and the IASC, and strengthen the attention given to older people in national humanitarian plans, UN agency plans and in donor funding priorities in oder to fully include older people in COVID-19 responses.

This follows on the leadership shown by the UN Secretary General António Guterres on Friday 1 May, where he issued a statement highlighting the disproportionate threat to the health, rights and social and economic well-being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.'


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Last updated: May 13 2020

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