Help Age International
During the conflicts between Ethiopia and Somalia that happened in the 1980s, no relief organization dedicated to serving and helping seniors existed. And as such, aged refugees that were fortunate enough to escape the war did not receive the care that they needed. This prompted Mr. Lesley Kirkley and a group of like-minded volunteers who were driven to do something to help seniors living in distress to jointly establish the Help Age International (Help Age) by connecting five organizations in Canada, Columbia, Kenya, India and UK in November 1983 with the hope of assisting older people on a global scale.
Today, HelpAge has witnessed steady and significant growth in terms of its scale and influence. The organization has become a leading institution with more than 130 members from 80 nations worldwide.
HelpAge is committed to helping older people to lead lives of dignity and quality; with the dawn of an aging society rapidly approaching, HelpAge’s strategic goals for 2020 comprises four primary components:
The world we want is one where every older woman and man, everywhere, can say
“I have the income I need”
HelpAge has been actively negotiating with governments in its operating locations on various solutions that will help to increase older people’s income. These measures include expanding tax financed, non-contributory pension schemes and other social welfare systems. Thus far, HelpAge has helped approximately 800,000 seniors in 18 countries to collect their social pension for the very first time.
In Kenya, the first universal social pension was launched in June 2018 and HelpAge assisted more than 530,000 older women and men in the registration. Not only that, HelpAge also collected relevant data and statistics through a baseline survey to lay the foundation for research into the pension’s short, mid and long-term impact.
In Kyrgyzstan and another 15 other nations, HelpAge have given 47,500 older people support to improve their income and food security in the last year through loans and grants, and business and technical training.
In other countries such as the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, South Sudan and Ukraine, HelpAge has also supported older people caught up in emergencies with cash to help them recover, which gave them the freedom to decide what their most urgent needs are.
“I enjoy the best possible health and care, wellbeing and dignity”
HelpAge has advocated for official data collected by national and international health agencies to include older people’s experiences and to disaggregate by age and sex so that relevant health policies can be adopted to address the existing challenges.
HelpAge has supported more than 425,000 older people in 11 countries to access information and services that help them meet their health and care needs, including through 225 intergenerational self-help clubs in Vietnam that provide home-based care, support active aging and so forth.
In Pakistan, HelpAge worked with three government health facilities to train staff, to secure basic equipment and medicine while ensuring that adequate care for older patients will be available even during times of emergency.
HelpAge is also active in areas of conflict and displacement. In seven countries such as Yemen, Syria and others where unrest ravaged the lands, HelpAge still managed to help older people access basic services through mobile health clinics, hospital referrals and health and nutrition screening. In Lebanon, the organization also worked with partners to provide psychological support and access to health and care services for those affected by the war in Syria.
“I am safe and secure, free from all forms of discrimination, violence, abuse and neglect”
HelpAge has been working with partners in countries and regions such as El Salvador and Tanzania to raise awareness of abuse that older people have been suffering. In Tanzania, due to the local customs and folk traditions, many instances of abuse have been the result of witchcraft-related violence. In response, HelpAge has helped to train community paralegals to provide legal aid to the old victims of such abuse.
In Bangladesh, together with local partners Resource Integration Center and Young Power in Social Action, HelpAge helped 8,000 older people who fled violence in Myanmar receive psychosocial support and access health services and shelter.
HelpAge has also trained a total of 1,180 people in 30 countries including Kenya, Pakistan and Philippines on how to best prepare and help older people during humanitarian crises.
“My voice is heard”
In many countries around the world, the rights of older people progress at a very slow pace because their voices are often unheard. Human rights do not diminish with age, but age discrimination and the violation of older people’s rights continues to be tolerated across the globe.
In addition to advocating for a UN convention to protect the rights of older people, HelpAge has also been actively taking part in the making of new policies and legislation on aging while supporting older people to form their own associations and campaign for their rights.
23 HelpAge global network members now have the right to be involved in the process towards a UN convention, and 8 have submitted evidence of human rights violations in their countries. HelpAge has also submitted relevant evidence on older people’s right to autonomy and independence, and long-term care and palliative care in the report Freedom to decide for ourselves after consulting 450 older people from 24 countries.
Prior to 2020, HelpAge will continue to work on the global deployment for the four aforementioned priorities by continuing to roll-out pension schemes for older people, assist Indonesia, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam to develop at least four national strategies on long-term care, provide protection outreach services in conflict-affected Ukraine, build awareness of services and legal provisions around gender-based violence for Kyrgyzstan, expand the number of older people’s associations in Myanmar and Vietnam, strengthen national aging network to better implement older citizen monitoring of key services.