Relief assistance for older persons in rural areas
COVID helped us gain an insight into how effective financial assistance as a form of humanitarian aid for older persons is in emergency situations and especially in prolonged crises. Experience from previous humanitarian interventions shows that only three percent of humanitarian aid is adapted to the needs of older population, so financial assistance is a way for older persons to satisfy their priority needs, rather than someone else determining those priorities on their behalf. It has been shown that in crises such as COVID-19, when the infrastructure in the society is not compromised, humanitarian aid in the form of cash actually helps older persons to meet their needs much better, but also allows for the extreme poverty of the elderly to be alleviated to some extent, in line with the “no one left behind” ethos.
Economic recovery after the crisis caused by the COVID pandemic is the slowest in remote and rural areas. The Red Cross of Serbia, thanks to the support provided by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), was able to distribute financial aid to 70 of the most vulnerable older households in five municipalities in the south of Serbia. These are older persons who have no or minimum income, live in the countryside, are over 75 years old, living alone or in as an older couple, and are functionally dependent. The implementing municipalities were chosen because of their high aging index and strong depopulation, which puts older persons in the countryside in a particularly difficult situation. Financial aid is therefore intended for them so that they can choose the priority needs that they need to satisfy, whether it is the purchase of firewood or medicine, or whether it is the need for health care services that they cannot access on time without paying.
As part of the implementation of this project, representatives of the Red Cross of Serbia and UNFPA visited some of the beneficiaries in the villages around Zaječar, which is one of the demographically oldest municipalities in the country, and talked with them about their biggest needs and how this financial assistance will help satisfy them.