Kisumu County’s annual rainy season this year has brought devastating floods to in Nyando, Muhoroni, Nyakach and Seme sub-counties this year. People are stranded in their homes or forced to flee them. School compounds earlier closed due to COVID-19 pandemic are waterlogged. Crops are wiped out. Livestock killed (see picture) https://www.the-star.co.ke/counties/nyanza/2020-05-14-dredging-of-kisumu-rivers-begins/ By mid-May2020 over 7,000 households have been displaced and staying in IDP camps, while another 1,500+ more households have been integrated within the community. I both cases, people are staying in overcrowded settings, hence negating the social distancing controls against coronavirus pandemic. Tens of people have lost their lives since the rains began in March. With support from our partners, Agewatch seeks to focus on assisting the elderly affected in these areas.

Usually older people are often excluded at aid distribution points because they may be physically unable to reach the sites, struggle to carry supplies home, or may even be overlooked when humanitarian agencies are considering what aid to give out, but this is greatly exacerbated when floods overwhelm roads and wash away bridges. Our home (domiciliary) care teams, which include skilled nurses and caregivers, will visit this vulnerable elderly target group from their makeshift “homes” to make the humanitarian relief work as inclusive as possible.

Kisumu County is hit by heavy rains every year and floods are always expected. But the impact of the global climate crisis means these annual deluges are becoming exceedingly extreme year after year. Equally challenging will be the post-flood restoration work. While the younger people may get themselves back to their original homes faster, the elderly will always remain in the IDP camps longer due to minimized attention by the community. They will require resources to carry on at the IDP camps and/or to relocate back to their homes to start life anew.

Disasters such as floods have a disproportionate impact on older people. They often have physical disabilities that can make it difficult for them to reach safety. They may have medical conditions that are exacerbated during a crisis or made difficult to manage when they cannot reach health services or safe grounds promptly. And the psychological toll can be much greater on older people, impacting their ability to cope.

These specific challenges should not be ignored. Together the organizations preparing for and responding to emergencies must consider the needs of older people to ensure they are never left behind.

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