Humanitarian support to vulnerable internally displaced older people in, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo

May 30, 2009

HelpAge International is a well established agency that has, for 25 years, helped older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives.

They work with partners to ensure that people everywhere understand how much older people contribute to society and that they must enjoy their right to healthcare, social services and economic and physical security. Older people face particular threats from the world’s increasing number of conflicts and natural disasters, but are not often identified as a vulnerable group. HelpAge International believes that older people’s rights, needs and capabilities must now be recognized in all emergency programmes.

HelpAge International’s 2008 emergencies strategy is to scale up the network’s emergency response worldwide and they expect the largest growth to be in the Africa region. The Democratic Republic of Congo is a strategic target country in which HelpAge International plans to significantly expand its emergency work. The overall goal of the HelpAge International’s DRC emergency programme (to which REI support will contribute) is to strengthen the protection, health and material welfare of older people and their dependents in North Kivu, eastern DRC.

This short term funding provided by Refugee Empowerment International provides interim funding for staffs support costs and the distribution of non-food items (NFI) while HelpAge International seeks further resources to expand the programme to meet medium and longer term needs of older people and their dependents in North Kivu.


3,998 older people were provided with much needed age specific non food items. Based on the needs assessment carried out before the distribution, sandals, quilts, mats, and sweaters were amongst the most needed items for older people. HelpAge International also facilitated the formation of older people’s committees (OPCs) in 7 camps around Goma. These committees, comprising an average of 10 men and 10 women as steering members, helped in advocating for active representation to the camp management committees. 3 social centres were also constructed (age-friendly spaces) in Kibati, Mugunga 1 and Bulengo. These centres became gathering points for older people to reduce the impact of loneliness and isolation, with approximately 120 older people gathering per week while the project was running.

This project consulted an experienced medical doctor and university teacher to facilitate a series of training on older people’s health. These trainings targeted medical schools, health care staff at secondary and primary health care levels and policy levels.

Lastly, it procured motorbikes and stretchers for the communities to transport older people to the health centers. This resulted in an increasing trend of older people visiting health centers.

In total, this project has directly reached 31,611 households.

‘Today we feel like we are truly at home and this gives us more joy and importance than all the material support we have ever received since we were displaced. It is now clear to everyone present that we as older people can do better than they ever expected’ (One older woman from the older people’s social days).