Support to older people returning to communities in Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo

March 31, 2010

This six month project will improve the wellbeing of older people returning to their homes in the DRC. “Older people” associations will be established in the returning communities. Additionally training in the production and marketing of ‘briquettes combustibles’ will include older members of the community.

The project beneficiaries are 680 older displaced persons affected by conflict and 500 vulnerable children who are in their care, staying within an IDP camp in North Kivu or those in the return process to Masisi, Nyiragongo and Rutshuru.

HelpAge International recognizes that the needs of older people and their dependents (mostly children) are still unresolved in communities, camps and in areas of return. The main concerns are:

  • A need to include old people in social activities to ensure greater psychosocial care
  • To provide income generating activities which are suitable for older people
  • To ensure the protection of older people through mainstreaming of ‘age’ and inclusion in community and in other international programmes
  • A need to provide appropriate and accessible medical services for older people.

Additional Information

An assessment conducted by HelpAge and its partners in April/May 2009 indicated the vulnerability of older people: 14% are isolated while 26% dependent on neighbours, 52% have physical mobility problems, 10% are mentally unstable, 80% suffer visibility problems and 51% suffer with emotional instabilities. Furthermore 6% reported having suffered sexual violence. Most returning older people have little or no income due to lost livelihoods.

HelpAge has over 20 years experience in emergencies worldwide and is the only organisation working specifically to meet the needs, uphold the rights and highlight the contributions of older people in humanitarian crises. HelpAge is recognised by key actors in the international humanitarian community as a leading advocate for the recognition of the rights of Older People, and an expert practitioner in ensuring adequate assistance is provided for them in emergency contexts. HelpAge has a long history of humanitarian response, both as sole agent and as a funding partner of southern organisations. Together, HelpAge and its core partners have a proven understanding of the communities in which their constituency lives, the vulnerabilities they face and the strategies they employ to mitigate these vulnerabilities.


5 age-friendly social centres were constructed, one in each of the five targeted villages . There were also some psychosocial and income generation activities and the HIV/AIDS and sexual and gender based violence training. 5 older people groups (OPGs) were also established; one in each community, and received capacity training to undertake advocacy in their individual communities on the rights and protection of vulnerable older people. Moreover, OPGs were provided with training in disaster risk reduction at the community level.

The training inspired the OPGs to actively embark on advocacy and support activities to meet the needs of vulnerable older people. Activities undertaken at the age friendly spaces have contributed strongly to improving the psychosocial wellbeing and household economy of war-affected older people, who returned to their villages of origin, entirely unprepared to face the challenges of resettling communities.

It also supported skills for 94 older men and women in the production of ‘briquettes combustible’, which involves the recycling of sawdust and waste paper to produce an efficient and environmentally friendly alternative source of energy in the place of firewood and charcoal; in partnership with Groupe d’Action pour les Droits.

One interviewee said: “before HelpAge came no-one spoke of the elderly. Now agencies working in the camp are aware and attentive to the needs of the elderly.”