An estimated 65.3 million people were displaced worldwide in 2015, per the United Nations, seven million of whom were in situations of protracted displacement (U.S. Department of State, 2017). Although the number of studies and data collection efforts concerning refugees is expanding, the literature is lacking when it comes to older populations; a HelpAge International study conducted in 2013 found that less than 5% of humanitarian projects mentioned people over the age of 49 years as a vulnerable group. Further, within the information that does exist, studies of gender-based violence toward this vulnerable population is extremely scarce.
This absence in the literature potentially excludes older people from both prevention efforts and the provision of support services that take aim at the issue of gender-based violence toward refugees worldwide. In 2014, HelpAge USA partnered with the Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to investigate the prevalence and risk factors of gender-based violence among women and men over the age of 49 years in situations of protracted displacement.
Five displacement sites were surveyed for this study: Adjumani and Kyangwali in Uganda, Barhka Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, Loralai in Pakistan, and Panama City in Panama. Key research findings include a 77% average of respondents from all five sites stating to have experienced some form of violence associated with conflict or displacement, including violence understood as gender-based, with 11% overall stating they experienced sexual violence during displacement. Across the five sites, an average of 32% of women and 14% of men claimed to have been exposed to at least one form of intimate partner domestic violence, either physical or verbal.
The results of this first-of-its-kind report start to fill the gap in knowledge concerning the issue of gender-based violence toward the world’s displaced elderly populations, an issue that is becoming more urgent as the duration of displacement increases as well as the number of elderly people being displaced.
Read how HelpAge USA is using this data to improve future studies and services for older populations of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).