The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release


One Percent of Humanitarian Aid Goes to People with Disabilities and Older People


A study published today by two nongovernmental organizations, HelpAge International and Handicap International, reveals a major gap between the needs of older people and people with disabilities and the level of humanitarian aid provided to meet the needs of these populations. Only one percent of international humanitarian aid is specifically allocated to these groups, despite the fact that they are often severely affected by crises and disasters.

The report underlines how "each year, humanitarian crises affect some 350 million people, of whom many are older people and people with disabilities who have specific needs arising from their age or disability. During crises, NGOs should place a particular emphasis on the most vulnerable sections of the population because they find it extremely difficult to access humanitarian aid," explained Jean-Pierre Delomier, Director of Handicap International's Emergency Response Division. "This is what we are trying to do for these people, who are often excluded from relief efforts, by covering both their basic and specific needs." Despite the realities on the ground, very little international aid is specifically targeted at these sections of the population.

"This study has highlighted an acute problem in the international humanitarian aid system," explained Frances Stevenson, Head of Emergencies at HelpAge International. "This system fails to systematically supply aid to the most vulnerable sections of the population.Older people and people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable during crises and disasters.They have specific needs.However, time and again, these needs are not assessed, analyzed or integrated in practical ways into emergency responses".

Eleven percent of the global population is aged 60 and older. Last June, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report that estimated the number of people with disabilities worldwide at 15 percent[1]. Despite representing a significant proportion of the world population, very little humanitarian aid is specifically allocated to these groups. An analysis of 6,003 projects launched by the United Nations between 2010 and 2011, within the framework of 14 Consolidated Appeals (CAP)[2] and four Flash Appeals[3] indicates that:

  • Only 61 funded projects (one percent of all projects) target older people or people with disabilities;
  • In 20 countries, no projects, in any activity sector, are targeted at older people;
  • The funding of projects targeted at people with disabilities fell between 2010 and 2011 (from 0.7 percent to 0.43 percent of all funding).

During humanitarian crises, older people and people with disabilities face particular challenges related to their mobility, access to certain services (including health care), and finding a source of income. If practical measures are not taken, the needs of these particularly vulnerable groups will continue to be ignored. It is therefore essential that humanitarian aid agencies ensure that the evaluation and analysis of needs on the ground take into account all potentially vulnerable groups. It is also essential that their responses take into consideration these needs by providing targeted and appropriate assistance wherever necessary.

A study of humanitarian financing for older people and people with disabilities, 2010-2011, is available here: Download

Handicap International is an independent and impartial international aid organization working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable populations, taking action and bearing witness in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights. Since its creation in 1982, Handicap International has established development programs in more than 60 countries and it has worked in various emergency situations. Eight national associations comprise the Handicap International network: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Switzerland. Together, the national associations mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and promote the organization's principles and actions around the world. Handicap International is one of the six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL