Older people around the world at higher risk of abuse and neglect than before pandemic: new report
• Launch of HelpAge International new report on the occasion of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
• Restrictive measures increase the risk of abuse and neglect
• Other health issues overlooked as a result of COVID-19
• The elderly are invisible in official COVID-19 impact statistics
Impact of COVID-19 has increased risk of elder abuse and neglect around the world, says HelpAge International in new report released today to mark United Nations World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
The report, “Carry the weight”, reveals that although the elderly are one of the groups most at risk for serious illness and death from COVID-19, they remain chronically invisible and woefully neglected in response and recovery efforts.
HelpAge heard from older people living in low- and middle-income countries whose exposure to violence, abuse and neglect has increased due to isolation, restrictive measures, loss of income and lack of ‘access to services.
Neglect, isolation and financial abuse were identified as the top three fears of the pandemic in a survey of 3,658 older people contacted by HelpAge for COVID-19 Rapid Needs Assessments (RNAs).
In India, HelpAge India received more than a thousand calls to its Elderly Helpline regarding abuse, violence and conflict in Wave 2, an increase of 18% from the previous wave. first. The helpline received nearly 20,000 calls in total during the second wave, a 36% increase since the first.
Restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the virus, increased stress and tension in homes, and the inability of older people to escape their abusers during periods of confinement have created conditions that may increase the risk of violence. , abuse and neglect. Older people may suffer in silence because they do not know how to report incidents or they may feel threatened by their abuser or stigmatized if they seek help.
Camilla Williamson, HelpAge health advisor and co-author of the report, said:
“COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on older people around the world.
“Not only are the elderly at higher risk of serious illness and death from the virus, but the government’s responses to the pandemic increase their risk of abuse and neglect.
“The global response to COVID-19 has systematically overlooked the specific needs and risks faced by older people. After more than a year of the pandemic, older people in low- and middle-income countries still face discrimination and marginalization.
“COVID-19 has exposed the inadequacy and failures of systems at local, national and international levels to meet the needs and rights of older people and support their resilience. The world is going through the second wave with a worsening impact on the elderly. “
The report, compiled by HelpAge and funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), gives voice to those who have not been heard, using information gathered from case studies in Ethiopia, at Kenya, Malawi, Moldova, Pakistan and Ukraine as well as interviews. with older people in 14 low- and middle-income countries for COVID-19 RNAs.
It offers insight into the experiences of older people and reveals barriers and concerns.
The report explains that a huge barrier to effective prevention, response and recovery is the lack of available data on older people around the world; they continue to be excluded from datasets and surveys. Existing surveys on violence against women focus mainly on women of childbearing age (15-49). This keeps older people out of sight and underrepresented in global and national policy and legal frameworks, which can influence the level of funding available to older people. COVID-19 funding has also been diverted from gender-based violence support services which are often the only providers of direct support to women, including older women, facing violence.
The report shows that older people are not getting the health care they desperately need. The response to COVID-19 has disrupted services for noncommunicable diseases such as cancer and diabetes, communicable diseases such as malaria, and essential mental health services. Combined with a loss of income, many seniors are unable to get the drugs they need.
Imtiaz Ahmed, Head of Mission at HelpAge India, said: “The elderly suffer in silence. There have been many unresolved health issues, people with cancer, diabetes, go untreated because the country is so busy with the COVID-19 response. They are afraid to take basic tests if they have symptoms, which may or may not be COVID-19, because they believe a positive test is a death sentence. It is an unimaginable reality. “
Health and psychosocial services have moved to telephone or online support, which means that older people who do not have Internet or telephone access, or those who have no technological skills are excluded. Neglect of access to health services will have disastrous consequences for the lives of all those affected.
Many older people already live in precarious situations around the world, especially those who have already lived a life of poverty, exclusion and inequality. Other findings from the report reveal that responses to the pandemic have made their lives even more difficult; jobs and livelihoods have been lost and rights denied.
Camilla Williamson added, “Governments and the international community cannot justify the continued neglect of older people. We need to see them act and make sure we make better progress in including older people in response plans and data collection if we are to build resilience for the future and advocate for their rights. We must all have the same opportunity to recover.
With an increasingly aging population and devastating cuts in foreign aid, HelpAge urgently calls on the international community to address the wider impact of the pandemic on the elderly, prepare for future challenges and ensure that access to COVID-19 vaccines prioritizes those most at risk.
The international community must learn the lessons of last year. The report provides urgent recommendations to humanitarian actors, donors and agencies. This includes calling for improvements in United Nations and government data systems, with the support of international partners to collect, analyze and use data on violence, abuse and neglect of older people. in order to inform prevention and response, and for States to United Nations Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.
Notes to Editors
For more information and to arrange an interview, please contact [email protected] and on +44 7768 233 757, or Johanna Rogers on +44 7969 083371
The report can be viewed online here. Photos available.
HelpAge and its local partners conducted rapid COVID-19 needs assessments in 14 countries in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Myanmar, Philippines, Rwanda, Tanzania, Sudan South and Uganda. A total of 3,658 people over the age of 50 were interviewed.
** HelpAge works on elder abuse **
HelpAge works with partners on the ground to help them recognize and prevent elder abuse and help them help older people affected by it access safety and response services. This includes access to legal advice and counseling for elderly survivors. We also provide older people with the information they need to seek help if they are abused.
HelpAge is advocating for prevention and response services, which include the elderly, to be classified as life-saving and essential in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. HelpAge also continues to advocate for laws and policies to protect older people from violence, abuse and neglect.