East African Drought Response

People in East Africa are facing a crisis which will only intensify with time. A combination of the worst drought in decades and serious political and economic turmoil has left approximately 15 million people in urgent need of food aid in Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, where HelpAge is currently providing assistance.

During emergencies like this, older people are particularly vulnerable; they have specific nutritional needs and they can't always travel the long distances needed to find food and water. HelpAge is working to support vulnerable older people affected by the drought through the distribution of food, safe drinking water and delivering healthcare.

We were able to meet with some of the older members of affected communities and hear their stories.

Hamimi, 75

Hamimi, 75 from Ethiopia

Hamimi is from Ethiopia in a region greatly impacted by the drought. The on-going drought caused by El Niño has killed livestock and dried up water sources throughout her village. Her response when we asked her about the current situation was this.

"Those who cannot afford to buy water are forced to walk up to 30km a day to gather water from lakes and ponds that are often rife with diseases and parasites. I'm too weak to go to the market. My feet are swollen and I've lost my sight. It's become risky for me to go out and about."

With assistance from HelpAge, Hamimi was able to access clean drinking water without having to make the long journey.

Mary, 85

Mary, 85 from South Sudan

Mary currently lives with her married granddaughter in a camp for internally displaced people in South Sudan. A member of the Dinka tribe, she was displaced from Jonglei, one of the states hit worst by the crisis.

"My feet are swollen and I've lost my sight. This makes it hard for me to enjoy life. When I was young, I'd help my mother with housework and then go dancing... Now I'm too weak to go to the market or visit friends. I can't even cross the nearby road because there's too much traffic. It's become risky for me to go out and about."

Mary received support from HelpAge which she used for her family. She expressed that while this is valued, there is never enough support for vulnerable older people. She is proud to be able to support her family and feels valued and respected.

Angelina, 64

Angelina, 64 from South SudanAngelina is 64 years old and lives with her son in a camp for internally displaced persons in South Sudan. She is a member of the Murle tribe and displaced from Jonglei, one of the states hit hardest by the crisis. "We were forced out of our home without any belongings. We became beggars."

Angelina's husband was killed in the war, so she is left to care for her children. Her greatest worry is insecurity and a lack of work, and because she is sick, she is unable to meet her basic needs and help her children. "Being a woman, let alone an older one, and being displaced without a single belonging is horrible, and I will never be able to forget it."

With assistance from HelpAge, some of her stress has been reduced. "We wouldn't survive without the aid we're given. We'd have nothing to eat because we have no jobs." Angelina feels that there is no way she can support herself because she is older. She says the misses the strength than enabled her to support her family and that if she was younger, she wouldn't suffer like this.

 

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Through these stories and experiences we have seen the impact this drought has had on older populations. Currently, it is projected that the crisis will be at its peak in September. Help us support older people now and prevent the crisis from worsening.

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