The role and vulnerabilities of older people in drought in East Africa: progress, challenges and opportunities for a more inclusive humanitarian response

Research reports and studies
July 2018
Veronique Barbelet and Fiona Samuels with Georgia Plank

Whilst older people have special needs, they also have unique skills, experiences and roles within their families, communities and societies. These roles continue to a certain extent during droughts, though household burdens may increase as younger adults have migrated or are grazing livestock further away.

At the same time, droughts tend to increase older people’s vulnerabilities: appropriate foods may be unavailable, their mobility might be reduced and their dependence on others may increase. Droughts also negatively affect the traditional roles of older people, and perhaps more specifically their social position, as communities and power and support structures are dismantled, leaving older people with less influence and power.

Given that the frequency and severity of natural disasters as a result of climate change are likely to increase, and that, by 2050, 22% of the world’s population will be aged 60 or over, it is increasingly important that humanitarian action not only responds to the specific needs and vulnerabilities of older people, but also recognises and builds on their capacities to contribute to humanitarian preparedness and response.

This study, commissioned by HelpAge International with funding from Age International and focusing on Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan, explores how organisations such as HelpAge can further support actors involved in drought crises to include older men and women in their responses.