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Elderly most vulnerable to insecurity

Youss’ra Ahmed, 85, was left behind by her relatives when they fled their Baghdad home. She was found hungry and thirsty by neighbours, after two days of lying in a bed
(Afif Sarhan/IRIN)

Elderly people in Iraq are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with daily life as the country’s security conditions worsen, say specialists.

Continuing violence and the consequent mass displacement has had a debilitating effect on the health and psychological conditions of the elderly, add the specialists.

There are no reliable statistics available for the number and conditions of elderly people in Iraq but aid agencies say that it is the elderly who find it most difficult to cope with displacement. As a result, they have developed illnesses which, with a lack of medical assistance, can lead to death.

“Elderly people are like children and need especial care. Without a proper diet, medical assistance, pension and welfare payments, aged people have been indirectly targeted by increasingly violence in Iraq,” Fatah Ahmed, a spokesman for Iraq Aid Association (IAA), said.

“With constant moving to flee sectarian violence, they have problems getting their pensions. And their monthly food rations are practically impossible to get as relatives are afraid to go to distribution centres and be targeted by insurgents or militants,” Ahmed added.

Those unable or unwilling to flee their homes become easy targets for fighters.

Youss’ra Ahmed, 85, was left behind by her relatives when they fled their Baghdad home. She was found hungry and thirsty by neighbours, after two days of lying in a bed.

“When we found her she was anaemic and hadn’t taken her medicines. Her relatives fled the home leaving her alone, sick in bed,” said neighbour Abbas Hassany, 43, who, with his wife, is now looking after the old lady.

“We took her to our home and are trying to help, according to our means, but God will make them [the relatives] pay for what they have done to this woman, who has given her life to raise them,” Hassany added.

Fend for themselves

Some elderly Iraqis have lost all their relatives over the past few years and now have to fend for themselves. Being unable to work because of age or health conditions, some of them have turned to begging in the streets while others are supported by their neighbours.

“I don’t have anyone to look after me. We were a happy family with all the men in the family working and we never had to beg for bread. Today, I’m alone after losing all my relatives and I have to beg to get food to keep me alive,” Marian Majeed, 69, an elderly street beggar in Baghdad, said.

According to local NGOs and doctors, the general health of elderly people has been fast worsening in the past three years.

''Today, I’m alone after losing all my relatives and I have to beg to get food to keep me alive.''

“Limited healthcare access, deteriorating services and deteriorating social support networks are making elderly people more vulnerable to diseases and worsening their current illnesses,” Dr Fua’ad Abdel-Rassul, geriatric specialist at the Ministry of Health, said.

He said that many elderly people in Iraq were suffering various heart diseases which were under control before the US-led invasion of 2003 but now, with a dire lack of medicines and equipment in the country, were going untreated.

“For those living in displaced camps or improvised tents, the situation is critical as they cannot reach hospitals on time and so might die for lack of medical assistance,” Abdel-Rassul said.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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