There are an estimated one billion individuals with disabilities worldwide, the majority of whom are elderly. Disabilities can severely limit the ability of older persons to access humanitarian assistance due to physical inaccessibility, stigma and discrimination, and high levels of poverty amongst the disabled. The needs and risks faced by older persons with disabilities in emergencies, and the challenges they face in accessing humanitarian assistance are poorly understood and often left unaddressed. The purpose of this research project is to strengthen the evidence base for protecting and assisting older persons with disabilities with a focus on internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine and refugees in Tanzania.


  • Produce a research report with concrete recommendations for improving protection and assistance to elderly IDPs living with disabilities.
  • Develop summary reports to inform advocacy with relevant stakeholders in Ukraine, Tanzania, and other countries with large populations of elderly IDPs
  • Disseminate findings and recommendations widely though briefings, social media, and incorporation into Global Cluster guidance documents.


  • Older people with disabilities fare worse than older people without disabilities in humanitarian situations.
  • Older people with disabilities face significant barriers that impede their ability to escape from danger and access humanitarian assistance. These include physical barriers and lack of infrastructure, attitudinal barriers and humiliation, and institutional barriers from untenable demands of service providers.
  • Several factors help older disabled people exercise their right to humanitarian assistance including families, neighbors, social structures, access to transportation, proximity to services, and home visits by service providers.
  • A disconnect exists between age-focused and disability-focused organizations, and older disabled people are at risk of being missed by both.


  • Humanitarian donors, policy makers, and practitioners should demonstrate leadership and the institutional will to include older and disabled people into all levels of humanitarian response and ensure organizations are held accountable for their inclusion.
  • Humanitarian actors should strengthen the base of evidence and data on older and disabled people in humanitarian situations to better locate them, understand their needs and experiences, and find opportunities for social participation.
  • Humanitarian actors should promote participation and empowerment for older and disabled people by recognizing their rights and the barriers that threaten them, advocating for their rights, and putting to use all available tools, training, and guidance to include older and disabled people at all stages of humanitarian response.
  • Humanitarian donors, policy makers, and practitioners should change attitudes and approaches across the spectrum of humanitarian actors by investing in activities that reduce discrimination against older people with disabilities and by promoting the idea that their inclusion is a critical task to meeting humanitarian commitments.
  • Humanitarian actors should put inclusion principles into practice by supporting coordination between organizations serving older people and those serving the disabled, promote the independence of older people with disabilities, identify the capacities of those who wish to work so they can be included in livelihoods activities, and support healthcare providers to make necessary health services available to them.

Link to Report

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future