Helping Older People

25/10/2011

Seke receives a monthly cash transfer from HelpAge which she uses for food

One hundred days after launching an appeal for Ethiopia, Age UK is providing food and cash to over 3,500 older people and their families (approximately 24,500 people) in Borana Zone and Dollo Ado.
 
Working through our sister organisation, HelpAge International, we are also repairing wells, improving access to healthcare and exploring the possibility of running family reunification programmes in camps for displaced people.
 
An uncertain future
 
If the October-December rainy season is a good one, conditions in Ethiopia will potentially improve. However, the weather phenomenon 'La Niña' may have an adverse impact on the rains, and if that happens, then the next harvest is likely to fail.
 
To make matters worse, dengue fever is on the increase, and food and fuel prices are soaring. Already the price of wheat – an important staple food in Ethiopia – is 85 per cent higher than last year.
 
In the short term, many people will still need ongoing emergency support. And in the longer term, good rains and longer term aid will be needed in the coming years, if Ethiopians are to rebuild their livelihoods.
 
Borana Zone - one of the worst affected regions
 
The Borana Zone is one of the worst affected regions in Ethiopia.
 
Seventy-year-old Seke (pictured above) commented, ‘I owned ten cattle, but after the drought hit, I lost nine. […] They were once my wealth, [they were] fat and healthy. Life was good. Now they are no more than carpets in my home. I would have sold the cattle skins to buy food but no one would buy them.’
 
Over the next six months, we will: 
 

  • distribute food packages and cash to 600 older people each month
  • rehabilitate 10 water ponds and three traditional wells using food or cash for work programmes targeting 2,000 older people
  • run livelihoods training programmes for 600 older people

Seke receives a monthly cash transfer. She commented, ‘I use this money to buy food, mainly maize for me and my family. This is the only means to survival I have at the moment.’
 
Dollo Ado region - reuniting families
 
We are also working in camps for displaced people in Dollo Ado, just two kilometres from the Somali border. There are more than 100,000 refugees in these camps, but only a small proportion are older people (0.85% compared to an average of 4.3% of older people in Somalia).
 
The low number of older people in the refugee camps implies that many older people have been left behind in Somalia. So we are exploring the possibility of restoring family links between Somali refugees in Ethiopia and older people back in Somalia. 
 
However, while the conflict in the neighbouring country continues, we will continue to focus our efforts in the camps. Over the next six months, we will:
 

  • improve access to healthcare for 900 people, providing medicine, mobility aids, eyecare and hearing aids
  • provide food packages to 900 people
  • improve temporary shelters for 900 people

Tom Wright, Age UK Chief Executive, commented, ‘Ethiopia remains a very high priority, and it is good to see our response to both immediate and long-term needs.’
 
Read more from Age UK on their work in East Africa.