Sri Lanka has the fastest growing ageing population in South Asia and it is predicted that by 2030, 1 in 5 Sri Lankans will be over the age of 60 with the majority being women- thus bringing about unique challenges and opportunities that the country must be prepared for especially in the context of emergency preparedness.
Recognizing these unique challenges, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sri Lanka entered into a partnership agreement with HelpAge Sri Lanka to enhance the meaningful inclusion of older persons in preparedness. This partnership will focus on building capacities of Senior Citizen Committees (SCC) in selected areas to provide early warning and respond to the needs of older persons in emergencies, developing disaster preparedness plans for selected Divisional Secretariat divisions including addressing the needs of older persons and people with disabilities and building capacities of relevant government organizations and other stakeholders on age-responsive action in planning and responding to emergencies.
As an island nation, Sri Lanka is vulnerable to the rapid effects of climate change and extreme weather conditions. In 2010 -2018, approximately 14 million people were affected by floods and 12 million people due to drought. Within this context, older persons form a significant part of society who are disproportionally affected during emergency situations.
Speaking on this, UNFPA Representative Ritsu Nacken stated that “With a firm commitment to leaving no one behind, UNFPA is pleased to partner with HelpAge to strengthen efforts to ensure the needs and voices of older persons and other vulnerable populations are included throughout their recovery efforts.”
The current global pandemic is one such crisis that disproportionately affects older persons, further exacerbating existing inequalities. This, coupled with the recurring environmental threats emerging from monsoons and other inclement weather conditions, makes it harder for recovery. This why UNFPA is partnering with HelpAge Sri Lanka to work towards integrating age-responsive actions in preparedness planning and emergency response.
“During the past three decades, HelpAge Sri Lanka has been at the forefront of creating a better world for Sri Lankan elders by implementing many programmes and projects island-wide. HelpAge is privileged to strengthen its hands by partnering with the UNFPA to embark its journey on a stronger platform to carry forward its mission in creating a safer environment for senior citizens of Sri Lanka against natural disasters” said Deshabandu Tilak de Zoysa, the Chairman of HelpAge Sri Lanka.