Disaster risk reduction and climate change policy

The world is ageing and at the same time our global climate is becoming increasingly unpredictable.

There is often a disproportionate impact of natural disasters, conflict and climatic stresses on older people.

Older people take part in DRR training in the Philippines.

(c) Artemio Andaya/COSE

Older people take part in DRR training in the Philippines.

We work to ensure older people can actively participate in community-based disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. We also empower older men and women to influence national and international policies on disaster risk reduction and climate change.

Older people have specific vulnerabilities to disasters, shocks and stresses. Underlying factors such as respiratory illness, heart disease, reduced mobility, social exclusion or reduced access to income can further increase their vulnerability. In addition, they may be more dependent on services which may be disrupted by disasters, such as health and social protection services.

However, not all older people experience the same level of vulnerability and many have significant experience - including knowledge of eco-systems and traditional approaches to conservation - which can contribute to our global resilience.

HelpAge's DRR and resilience work

HelpAge supports older people's associations in disaster prone and climate change affected communities in more than 15 countries.

We help them to participate in disaster risk reduction planning and implementation, to engage in resilient livelihoods and health initiatives and to influence policy makers in order to build the resilience of older people and their communities to disaster.

A lack of services in older age can increase specific vulnerabilities, including:

  • lack of support for reduced mobility and strength
  • impaired sight and hearing
  • greater vulnerability to heat and cold
  • underlying health issues which can be exacerbated by the impacts of disaster
  • poverty and social isolation which can reduce their ability to prepare for or cope during disasters.

Despite their knowledge, older people often have limited involvement or influence over disaster risk reduction programme and policy initiatives. HelpAge's project and policy work aims to ensure that older people are at the heart of disaster risk reduction and resilience planning and implementation.

Through our programme and policy work we promote:

  • Age-inclusive disaster risk assessments and action plans at national, local and community and family level, which include livelihoods, awareness raising, environmental rehabilitation, infrastructural and social mobilisation initiatives.
  • Critical service systems for older people such as healthcare, livelihoods and social protection that are built to be resilient and adaptive to climate change.
  • National and international commitments, including UNISDR Sendai frameworks to ensure disaster risk reduction and climate change strategies are age-inclusive. In 2014, we launched Charter 14, a voluntary commitment and set of actions national governments and international organisations can take to ensure their disaster management strategies are age inclusive.

Examples of our work

Winterisation in Central Asia:

With younger adults migrating for work, many older people are left behind with their grandchildren. These households are extremely vulnerable as older people struggle to provide for their grandchildren and themselves, especially during the winter.

We built greenhouses to enable older people to grow vegetables into the winter months. We also installed solar powered lighting in communal facilities, allowing older people to meet in social spaces and reduce their isolation.

Intergenerational work in Ethiopia:

The population in Borena are mainly pastoralists who depend on livestock for survival. Increasing frequency of droughts is resulting in loss of livestock.

With Save the Children, we are supporting communities to prepare and mitigate for this and reach the most vulnerable with the support of intergenerational DRR committees.

Ancestral knowledge in Bolivia:

In Bolivia, where increasing flood and drought risks are due in part to the changing climate, HelpAge and partners work with older people to capture ancestral knowledge of agriculture techniques called Camellones. Camellones are raised island banks planted with a variety of vegetables and fruits.

These banks retain water in times of water shortage and protect crops from flooding in the lowland areas. The banks' ponds are dug and populated with fish which diversifies the community's income and increases its resilience to changing conditions.

Network of trained older emergency teams:

From the Philippines, to Pakistan and Bolivia, we are supporting communities to be prepared for disaster.

We train them in all aspects of early warning and emergency management, evacuation planning, search and rescue, emergency healthcare as well as communication and coordination with local government response teams.

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Striking facts

A global rise in temperature of more than 2C could result in:

  • 4 billion facing water shortages
  • 200 million climate refugees
  • 375 million affected by climate related disasters.

Read HelpAge`s blogs about climate change


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