Port-au-Prince — A new report issued today finds that Haiti’s older population is struggling to satisfy urgent needs under restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The report details how many older Haitians are facing mounting hunger, near-constant stress, uncertainty about healthcare and growing economic difficulties. Today’s release, conducted in partnership between Church World Service and HelpAge International, calls for immediate action to address the present needs of and long-term support for this population at risk.
Key findings from the assessment, which included interviews with 240 older adults conducted in late July and early August, included:
- While nearly everyone knows about Covid-19, many cannot afford to protect themselves.
When asked whether they had heard about Covid-19, 99% confirmed that they had. But 56% said that they could not afford personal protective equipment. While 99% of respondents said they were aware of the importance of handwashing, 35% do not have sufficient access to water and soap to do so.
- Hunger is on the rise.
As a result of the pandemic and resulting restrictions, 92% of respondents have had to reduce the quality or quantity of food that they consume. When asked about food storage, 87% of respondents reported having food for less than two days at home.
- Access to healthcare is a significant challenge.
Of those interviewed, 98% said that they did not know where the nearest facility is that tests or treats people for Covid-19. More than half, 54%, have not been able to access medication since the outbreak of the pandemic, and 73% of those interviewed are facing difficulties in accessing health services.
- The pandemic is taking a heavy toll on mental wellness.
As a result of the pandemic, 49% of respondents said that they feel worried “all or most of the time.” Additionally, 41% feel that they are unable to cope with their current situation.
While the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Haiti remains relatively low, not all of Haiti’s provinces have testing facilities. It is highly likely that cases are going undetected.
Following the report’s release, the authors issued the following statements:
“The report’s alarming findings highlight the fragility of many systems and institutions in Haiti. Weak public institutions and political instability have challenged Haitians for generations, and the pandemic has exacerbated a situation that was already dire,” said Martin Coria, Church World Service Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “We must focus on meeting immediate needs, especially in helping families put food on the table and access clean water and hygiene supplies. We must also continue to focus on pro-poor reforms and the long-term resilience of Haitian families, helping them access safe housing, healthcare and sustainable livelihoods.”
“Older people are too often overlooked in the humanitarian response but this Rapid Needs Assessment clearly highlights their needs in Haiti. Older adults are especially at risk because of Covid-19, but they are unable to adequately protect themselves from contracting the virus. They are facing huge and growing challenges in nearly every aspect of their lives, from food to housing to mental wellbeing. We call on the Haitian government and international community to recognise the specific needs of older women and men across Haiti and to reach out to them with immediate, as well as long-term support,” said Marcela Bustamante, HelpAge Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean.