Elderly Syrian Refugees Need More Care
IRIN Middle East
Credit: Heba Aly/IRIN
workers say some elderly Syrian refugees in Jordan
are in need of support
Haweyah Khawis, born in 1909, lived
more than 100 years in Homs, Syria, until two months
ago when she was smuggled to the Jordanian border
accompanied by Anoud, her daughter-in-law.
When IRIN spoke to her she seemed a bit confused:
“Homs is damaged. I heard sounds and sounds.”
The elderly are an especially vulnerable group, often
needing higher levels of assistance than their
struggling families can provide, and many of them are
doubly disadvantaged by failing to register with the
UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Jordan.
“UNHCR cannot give an exact number of those
elderly who have not registered with them. For the
elderly it can be a bigger challenge to register with
UNHCR due to the fact that some of them may not be
mobile," UNHCR external relations officer Aoife
McDonnell told IRIN.
Aid workers from the Syrian Women’s Association (SWA)
and the Islamic Charity Centre Society (ICCS) in
Jordan, who are working closely with the refugees, say
the numbers of the elderly in need are considerable.
“Unfortunately, we do not have a plan to help
this marginalized group yet. But we know some of them
need wheelchairs, diapers, and medication as their
children come and tell us,” Khaled Ghanem of ICCS told
“People at this age need medication for ongoing
problems such as diabetes and blood pressure, which we
do our best to provide when they ask for it,” said a
volunteer doctor at the ICCS centre in Mafraq (town
near Syrian border).
“We only provide them with mattresses, blankets,
heaters. Lack of income means people are not eating
properly, which makes elderly people’s health worsen
every day,” said Ghanem.
“Some need surgery for disc-related pains, but
unfortunately, we cannot help them. There are others
who need physiotherapy and we turn them away when they
ask for help,” he added.
According to aid workers, elderly refugees are
more likely to suffer from depression after being
displaced to a new country, especially when their new
living conditions are bad.
Lamya*, 61, fled to Jordan with her brother and
his family after she lost her only child during the
crackdown on protesters.
“They registered me on the same card with my
brother. Can you imagine someone at my age asking my
brother for money to get on the bus? Can you imagine
living with my sister-in-law and so many children in
one room?” she said with eyes full of tears.
“There is an urgent need for psychologists to
provide support for the elderly. We lack expertise in
this field. They need support as they have been hit
badly by the crisis," said ICCS’s Ghanem.
“Providing tertiary health care is a challenge
as it is too expensive. Some donors can be reluctant
to pay for it as the cost of one [tertiary] treatment
sometimes covers the cost of 200 cases primary health
care," said McDonnell.
According to UNHCR in late June, 33,079 Syrian
refugees have been registered in Turkey, 26,941 in
Jordan, 22,530 in Lebanon and 5,839 in Iraq.
*Not a real name