Syria: older refugees suffering in silence

1 October 2013

"Life here is very hard. We have no money, so we can’t afford anything. I feel like I have lost my dignity." - Ahmad

Today, on International Day of Older People, CAFOD warns that the plight of older refugees from Syria is being ignored.

Forgotten Voices, a new report by our partner Caritas Lebanon, shows that many older Syrians are suffering in silence, making huge sacrifices for their families at the expense of their own health.

Alan Thomlinson, our Emergency Manager for the Syria Crisis, said: “The world has been shocked by the plight of Syrian children. But older Syrians are facing – if anything – an even greater catastrophe.

“Imagine if your grandparents saw their home being bombed and their friends killed. Imagine them losing their possessions and their life savings. Imagine them trying to start again with a nothing in a foreign country, with nowhere to live and no access to healthcare. That’s the reality for hundreds of thousands of older Syrians today.

“With winter approaching, many will face a desperate few months, living in tents or derelict housing in plummeting temperatures.

“It’s vital to listen to their concerns and make sure that they receive the support they so desperately need.”

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The report shows that a staggering 87 per cent of older refugees in Lebanon can’t afford the medication they need. Many suffer from existing health conditions, for which they can’t get treatment. For others, the stress of what they’ve been through is causing hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. 66 per cent describe their health as bad or very bad.

Older refugees

87% can’t afford the medication they need

75% depend on aid

66% describe their health as bad or very bad

61% suffer from anxiety

Many are also suffering from trauma and mental health issues. More than 60 per cent of those interviewed reported feeling anxious, while significant numbers said that they felt depressed, lonely and like they were a burden to their families. 

Ahmad is a 67-year-old refugee whose home near Damascus was bombed. Today, he is living as a refugee in Lebanon, sharing a small room in a half-built block of flats with seven other people.

He said: “Life here is very hard. We have no money, so we can’t afford anything. I suffer from heart disease, but I have no medication.

“Caritas have given us food, mattresses and blankets, and nappies and food for the babies. But we need so much more.

“It is humiliating to leave your home at my age. It is hard to live when you have lost your dignity.”

We are working with Caritas Lebanon and other local partner to support people in need of all ages. Our partners are providing food, clothes, relief supplies, blankets, shelter and heaters for the winter.

Donate to our Syria Crisis appeal>>

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