Humanitarian Crises and Emergency Situations Involving Older People: The UKRAINE Crisis

Mar 14, 2022 | All posts, Guidelines and protocols

This is a rapid set of emergency guidance produced by a small group of experts on an unbadged basis.

Download the document (pdf) here: Humanitarian Crises and Emergency Situations Involving Older People: The UKRAINE Crisis 

Humanitarian Crises and Emergency Situations involving Older People: The UKRAINE Crisis

Older people caught up in a war or natural disaster are often very vulnerable because of:

• Psychological trauma and emotional upset from being separated from family and close friends
• Pre-existing injuries and health conditions, as well as limited mobility
• Separation from routine and emergency services
• An increased risk of losing weight, developing infections (like chest or bladder infections), becoming immobile and frail
• The low priority older people often give themselves, wanting to put younger people first


Key Messages

1. Be prepared to follow advice to flee your home and leave non-essential possessions behind; but try not isolate yourself from family or friends, maintain communications with email or SMS texts.
2. Keep your small personal possessions of value with you:

• money
• important documents (ID papers, passport)
• list of your medications, blood group and (if available) medical history
• telephone numbers of family and friends
• numbers for local emergency services

3. If you need to travel, remember to take a phone charger, your dentures, glasses, hearing aids, mobility aids, medications, and emergency bracelets.
4. If you often get confused, forget things or feel overwhelmed, remain with a friend, relative or carer who can help you.


Maintaining Health and Nutrition

1. Ensure essential items are available or provided by your local support/aid agency – shelter, food and water, clothing, heat source, bedding materials, and access to services that are still operating.
2. Make certain you are checked by a trained support or agency worker, so they can assess your immediate health and nutritional needs.
3. Try to keep at least a month’s supply of your daily medicines. Keep a list of your medicines with you.
4. Take your medications as prescribed, and alert others when particular medicines are running out.
5. Maintain your mobility by any daily walking or exercises you can safely do.
6. Try to eat two meals per day, preferably with family or friends. Drink at least 2 liters of water per day (unless you have a condition that specifically requires more limited intake).
7. Tell family, friends, or carers when you feel unwell. Quick and timely treatment will help prevent you becoming more ill. Don’t leave it too late!


Support Agencies – Your Actions Matter!


• Consider the special vulnerabilities of older people when allocating shelter, food and water supplies, medicines and first aid.
• Some older people have dentures and may have difficulty chewing hard foods. Provide food that is digestible by older people: take into account gastrointestinal disorders and the presence of malnutrition.
• Provide sufficient medicines for people with cardiovascular disease, respiratory disorders, diabetes (type 1 and 2), pain relief and other chronic disorders.
• Watch for sudden signs of worsening of confusion, physical disability, pain or psychological distress.
• Set up regular daily clinics to cater for the special needs of older people, focussing on pain, frailty, joint and limb pain.
• Be aware many older people in a war can face emotional, physical, material or sexual abuse.
• Help older people locate/trace their family, carers and friends if they are not with them.