Designing food security and livelihood programmes for older people in emergencies

Guidance and Action Points by HelpAge International organisation

HelpAge International goals

HelpAge International aims to provide general guidance on implementing food security and livelihoods programmes for older people in emergency situations. The current guidance framework is for food workers in the field and it can also be used to highlight the needs of older people in humanitarian crises.

The objective of an emergency food security intervention is:

  • To prevent acute malnutrition by supporting people to meet their immediate basic food needs.
  • To protect, diversify and recover their livelihoods.

HelpAge International reports that humanitarian response occurs in three phases as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The three phases of humanitarian response: the Critical Period, the Early Recovery and the Recovery period. Figure sourced from Collodel (2012)

The objective of a food security intervention during the Critical Period, i.e. when the disaster occurs, is to prevent acute malnutrition by supporting people to meet their immediate basic food needs. Immediate food security interventions include the provision of food or cash to buy food and other necessities.

The following risk factors should also be assessed:

  • Ability to access food sources and cash
  • Living alone or with others and whether depend on others to shop and prepare food
  • Having one or more health conditions, disabilities or experience food poverty
  • Eating preferences and nutritional requirements (protein, micronutrients).

During the Early Recovery Period, food aid should continue by providing food or cash, however, interventions should occur to start restoring livelihood and returning to pre-disaster state. During this period, a Market Assessment, i.e., a detailed assessment of the local markets and trades to understand how the intervention affects the local economy, should also be performed.

More details on how to conduct a Market Assessment can be found in the Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis Tool kit (EMMA, 2011) –

During the Recovery Period, the objective is to reduce people’s vulnerability to future disasters and support them towards a sustainable livelihood. This period should include sustainable activities that increase resilience and independence of older people to improve their wellbeing.