100 Days on: Millions of older people neglected in Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis


Friday, June 3, 2022

HelpAge Canada warns that more must be done to prioritize the particular challenges and needs of millions of older people caught in Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis. People over the age of 65 are being overlooked in the humanitarian response, despite making up a quarter of the country’s population.

A new survey from HelpAge International offers an insight into what this population has been enduring for nearly 100 days since the start of full-scale warfare in Ukraine.

The survey reveals that:

  • 69% of older Ukrainians have not been contacted by a humanitarian agency since the escalation of the war
  • Almost nine out of ten older people (89%) have a limiting health condition such as hypertension (57%), heart problems (50%), joint aches and pains (41%) and gastro-intestinal issues (20%) and 71% have more than one chronic
  • Only 43% have full access to medication, with 12% reporting they have no access at all. 8% do not have access to safe drinking water.
  • 43% have at least one disability, 34% have mobility issues, 14% have poor sight, 8% face challenges with remembering and 6% with communicating.

Respondents said their most urgent needs are:

  • Money to easily access what they need most for their immediate well-being (74% of respondents)
  • Medicine and healthcare (70% of respondents)
  • Hygiene items (61% of respondents)

Gregor Sneddon, HelpAge Canada’s Executive Director, said: “Urgent action to address the very real and desperate needs of older people in Ukraine is essential.”

“This failure to adequately respond to their specific needs during moments of crisis is all too common unfortunately. We saw how a global pandemic disproportionately impacted the lives of older people and limited their ability to lead secure, healthy, and dignified lives. We cannot continue to marginalize the needs of older people.”

Orla Murphy, Ukraine Humanitarian Response Manager for HelpAge International who was recently in the war zone said: “The level of trauma and need that so many older people have is beyond belief, particularly among those who have already endured eight years of fighting in the east of the country.

“As we approach 100 days of full-scale war, it’s time the global community acknowledges the horrors and the challenges of the older generation and stops putting them at the back of the queue.”

It is widely recognized that older people have specific needs that must be addressed as part of an inclusive and effective humanitarian response. But they are rarely prioritized. Since 2020 HelpAge Canada has been providing hygiene and food kits to more than 1000 older people living along the line of contact in Eastern Ukraine in direct response to the dire need of that population.

“As an organization, we have been voicing the urgency of the response needed and the extreme hardship the older people of Ukraine are facing. Because we believe that improving the quality of life of vulnerable older persons is important both in Canada and abroad, we have rallied our network of partners to give generously to the work of HelpAge on the ground in the region.” said Gregor Sneddon.

To date HelpAge Canada has mobilized close to $5 million in humanitarian relief for older Ukrainians and their families with major donations coming from the federal government, Canadian-Ukraine Foundation, Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, Islamic Relief Canada, and the Humanitarian Coalition.

The organization is currently concentrating its relief efforts on the older population affected by the conflict in neighbouring countries, in addition to within Ukraine. HelpAge Canada supplies food, hygiene kits, and bedding in 44 refugee centres in Moldova. In Poland, the organization provides cash assistance to older displaced people who cannot access their pension or medical benefits. In Ukraine, along with medicine and other essential items, it is providing crucial psychosocial support to those who have witnessed or have suffered traumatic experiences.

Since the full-scale escalation of the war in Ukraine this year it is estimated that more than 2.5 million older Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian relief.

“We know that when Canadians and the government prioritize the needs of older people, a more inclusive humanitarian response can happen,” said Gregor Snedddon.



For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Gregor Sneddon directly at  613-889-3737 (cell) or by email: GSneddon@helpagecanada.ca


Interview opportunities available


About the Survey

The Rapid Needs Assessment survey is based on 569 interviews, 218 of which were with people over 60. It was carried out in the oblasts of Chernivetska and Lvivska in western Ukraine and Dnipropetrovska in central Ukraine between 6 and 11 May, 2022.


Profiles of older people from Ukraine

Ana, 62, tells of life at home in Severodonetsk before she was evacuated with four generations of her family to Dnipro

Lyubov, 77, who left her home in eastern Ukraine after shelling blew out the windows. She now uses an old sewing machine to update clothes, living in an IDP shelter in Dnipro

Raisa, 71, who was evacuated in May with her husband, Alexander, from their home in Severodonetsk, where they say there has been no water, electricity or gas since the war started. They have not seen members of their family since 2014

Valentina, 81, who was born in Russia and moved to Ukraine as a child. She sees herself as part of the generation that built her hometown of Severodonetsk. Details of her life before and the challenges she now faces as an IDP in Dnipro with her sister and brother-in-law

Valentina, 68, who left Lisichansk with her youngest son and grandson and worries desperately for the family she left behind.


Additional content

No Time for Business as Usual, new advocacy brief, HelpAge International

Remaining at home in Eastern Ukraine

The plight of internally displaced people in Lviv

Older refugee in Moldova


Canadian Supporters