Respond carefully | Political economics

PAkistan is currently experiencing one of the worst floods in its history. A third of the country is under water. An estimated 33 million Pakistanis have been affected by the floods and more than 1,100 people have died. According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), at least 72 of the country’s 160 districts are affected by the disaster. In addition to other infrastructure, 287,000 houses were completely destroyed and 662,000 were partially damaged. Over 735,000 head of cattle and 2 million acres of crops were destroyed. It is important to note that rainfall from June to August this year across the country was almost 200% above the average of the previous 30 years. Pakistan is one of the ten countries most affected by climate change. The Government of Pakistan and the United Nations have launched an appeal to support those affected by the floods. An appeal for $160 million has been launched.

Since the appearance of the calamity, rescue and relief operations have begun; in the days to come, the recovery will take place. Many national and international organizations are developing emergency response plans that will soon be implemented. Now is the time to consider that emergency response plans should be inclusive and address the needs and concerns of all vulnerable groups, including older people and people with disabilities. It has been noted in the past that while providing assistance to people affected by disaster, the limited mobility of older people and people with disabilities is often overlooked. Services, including health, food, nutrition, water supply and sanitation, are barely developed, considering the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities. It is important to also collect data on older people and people with disabilities. Collecting age- and disability-specific data will help in the development of inclusive programs and policies.

In times of crisis and calamity, older people are more vulnerable. Their lives are often in danger, as they need specific health care measures. In the elderly, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension are common. According to the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF), 26.7% of all adults in Pakistan are living with diabetes. This is the highest national prevalence in the world. Diabetic patients should take their prescribed medications on time, such as insulin. Failure to do so could put the lives of seniors at risk.

It has been noted in the past that while providing assistance to people affected by disaster, the limited mobility of older people and people with disabilities is often overlooked. Services including health, food, nutrition, water supply and sanitation are barely developed, considering the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities.

The nutritional needs of the elderly must also be taken into account due to the various diseases and conditions that limit their food choices. For example, people with diabetes cannot consume foods containing sugar, while people with hypertension should limit their salt intake. Unfortunately, these factors are not taken into account in the design of the food baskets. It is essential that emergency responders design the food basket in a way that is inclusive for all. When designing food programs, the nutritional needs of older people should be considered. In addition, medicines for the elderly should be available in medical camps set up in disaster areas, and staff should be aware of their needs.

Disasters always have a psychological impact, which is particularly severe for the elderly. To take into account the mental health of the elderly, counseling and psychosocial assistance measures should be developed.

Older people often lack services because they are unable to walk long distances or wait in line due to various health conditions and disabilities. It can be very difficult and challenging for older people and people with disabilities to access central distribution points; it is crucial that they are supported to make services accessible. The same goes for water and sanitation services, as older people regularly need these services. However, when the distances are long, the elderly and people with disabilities find it extremely difficult to access the toilets.

When constructing new shelters or repairing damaged shelters in camps, it is crucial to take into account the need to build latrines close to where older people live. In camps, ensure that older people are placed in areas with access to toilets and water sources. It is crucial that the road leading to the toilets is leveled and made accessible to wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility.

Pakistan is one of those 15 countries in the world where the number of people aged 60 and above exceeds 10 million. The number of elderly people in the country is estimated at 16 million. According to international surveys and the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of a country’s population has a disability. Since the population of Pakistan is approximately 220 million, 15% equals 33 million people.

The number of people with disabilities is increasing because it is directly proportional to the number of people who are aging. Globally, it is estimated that 46% of older people have a disability, indicating that approximately one in two older people has a disability.

The author is a communications specialist and a freelance writer. He is based in Rawalpindi and can be contacted at: [email protected] He tweets @qureshiwaqasA

About Antoine L. Cassell

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