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A unified call for support for older people in Ukraine

11 March, 2022
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The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, along with Age NI and other age partners across the UK, have come together and written to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, urging the UK government to do all it can to protect and promote the rights of older people in Ukraine.

The Commissioner, Eddie Lynch, said: “It’s vital that the UK takes into account how the escalating crisis in Ukraine specifically impacts older people, many of whom are unable to make long and dangerous journeys to safety due to failing health or mobility issues, making them particularly vulnerable.

"For those older people who cannot flee, access to essential supplies such as fuel to heat their home in falling temperatures will also become increasingly difficult. It’s crucial that humanitarian agencies get access to these vulnerable older people to supply them with all the resources they need.

"I hope that by coming together with other older people’s organisations across the UK, our unified voice will be heard loud and clear by the UK government and that they will make urgent preparations to ensure that we are ready to welcome older refugees when they arrive on our shore.”

Read the full letter to Boris Johnston below:  

 

Rt Hon. Boris Johnson MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

9 March 2022

Dear Prime Minister,

Support for older people in Ukraine

As a group of organisations and individuals working on behalf of older people across the United Kingdom and throughout the world, we have significant concerns about the rights of older people in Ukraine being breached in this humanitarian crisis.

A survey undertaken by HelpAge International in the oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk has shown the distressing conditions that many Ukrainian older people find themselves in.[1]

Older people living in Eastern Ukraine have already been living with the consequences of war for 8 years and the assistance provided by HelpAge International, Age International and others has been crucial in supporting them. An estimated 30% of people affected by the conflict since 2014 are older people, many of whom have been driven from their homes and communities in Eastern Ukraine.

It is vital that the UK’s response to the escalating humanitarian crisis in Ukraine takes account of the specific impacts felt by older people who remain in their communities in Ukraine, and those who have evacuated to seek refuge in other parts of Ukraine, neighbouring countries or the UK.

Many older people in Ukraine will be isolated and trapped in their homes, with limited support from families and neighbours, particularly in cities and communities where evacuations have been occurring. Older people with limited mobility and living with other disabilities will find it difficult to make the treacherous journey towards safety and will have no choice other than to remain in their homes and risk their lives.

Access to essential food, medicines and supplies is particularly urgent and difficult for older people isolated in their homes as supplies run out and shops become inaccessible. Low temperatures across the country will exacerbate even further lack of access to fuel, water and other supplies, limiting the ability of older people to heat their homes and stay alive. Even if supplies are available, many older people will be reliant on pensions as their sole source of income and may not be able to access these funds to cover the costs of essential supplies.

It is crucial that humanitarian agencies get access to these vulnerable older people to provide the resources, food and healthcare support that they need.

As well as the urgent humanitarian support that is needed in Ukraine and neighbouring countries, preparations should also be made here in the United Kingdom to welcome and support older refugees when they arrive on our shores. Whilst HelpAge International’s survey shows that almost all older people in Eastern Ukraine do not want to be evacuated from their homes, there will be many older people who are forced, or choose, to leave Ukraine. Whilst changes to the United Kingdom’s visa rules allowing adult parents and grandparents of Ukrainian people settled in the UK to enter are welcome, we urge you to go further and to remove visa restrictions to ensure that all older refugees from Ukraine are able to find safety and sanctuary in the UK.

In order to support older people in Ukraine and those seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and the United Kingdom, we call upon the UK Government to:

  • Use all possible avenues to ensure that humanitarian access is given to all civilians in Ukraine, including older people.
  • Ensure that explicit attention is given to the needs and rights of older people in Ukraine and surrounding countries in preparing and implementing the humanitarian response with other national governments and international organisations.
  • Ensure older people in Ukraine or those seeking refuge in neighbouring countries have access to appropriate medical supplies, medication and mobility aids through donations, funding or the sharing of technical expertise.
  • Remove the visa requirements on Ukrainians fleeing the war to ensure that older people without relatives in the UK are able to seek refuge here.
  • Consider the needs and rights of older Ukrainians who are seeking refuge in the United Kingdom and what support they may need upon arrival.
  • Continue to provide support to charities involved in the humanitarian response including HelpAge International and Age International to ensure that they and their partners can provide the crucial support that older people in Ukraine desperately need.

We urge you to do all you can to protect and promote the rights of older people in Ukraine and those seeking refuge in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

Yours sincerely,

Heléna Herklots CBE, Older People’s Commissioner for Wales

Chris Roles, Managing Director, Age International

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director, Age UK

Eddie Lynch, Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland

Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive, Scottish Care

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive, Age Scotland

Linda Robinson, Chief Executive, Age NI

Victoria Lloyd, Chief Executive, Age Cymru

John Palmer, Director of Policy and Communications, Independent Age

Carole Easton, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better

Chris Lynch, Deputy CEO, Alzheimer’s Disease International

David Sinclair, Director, ILC-UK

Sir Myles Wickstead

Andrew Purkis OBE, former Chair of Action Aid

Marissa Conway, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy

 

[1] HelpAge International (2022) Older people on the edge of survival in eastern Ukraine. 4 March 2022. Available at: https://www.helpage.org/newsroom/latest-news/older-people-on-the-edge-of-survival-in-eastern-ukraine/