Bosnia Appeal: Elderly now at the most risk

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The Independent Culture
ACCORDING to Help the Aged's most recent report from Bosnia, the outlook for elderly displaced people is bleak, writes Joanna Gibbon. The worsening conditions have led the charity to concentrate primarily on distributing fuel to the elderly people living in bombed-out houses and shacks along the Croatian and Bosnian border.

'Winter weather is the main killer for the elderly,' says James Newsome, at Help the Aged's international desk. He compares the situation with that of the elderly in Britain during winter: 'On average there are an extra 30,000 deaths from the cold winter weather over here. In the former Yugoslavia it is critical, a figure of 2.8 million deaths could be surpassed.'

The charity is also concerned about the southern sector near the Bosnian border between Split and Knin, from where it has had reports that the displaced population is made up of nearly 80 per cent of elderly people.

Such a concentration places everyone in an especially vulnerable position. Although they will vary in degree of frailty, at least half of the elderly people will be exceptionally frail, says Mr Newsome.

Meanwhile, the other half - who will be more active and in their late 60s and early 70s - might be able to help, but the physical and financial stress and trauma of their positions will be sapping their strength too. 'It all spirals downwards,' warns Mr Newsome.

During the last 10 days Care International has reached Mostar with its fleet of trucks - the first time since the UN blockade. The fleet brought in desperately needed aid, mainly on behalf of other non-governmental organisations. About 30 per cent of the charity's own winter consignment - 49,500 parcels of mainly supplementary food for children and babies, including pre-weaning milk powder and orange juice - has now been delivered to Tuzla and Jablanica, a town north of Mostar.

The distribution will continue until the end of February but Sue Davison, Care International's Bosnia project officer, says the fleet of 15 trucks is now taking much longer to deliver aid, mainly because of security problems and, to a lesser extent, the snow. 'It is now taking 10 days to complete a round trip to Tuzla from the border whereas last year it was four days,' she says.

Now in its second week, the Independent Bosnia Appeal has raised pounds 107,000. For every donation to one or more of 15 charities working in the region, the Independent will add 10 per cent, up to pounds 30,000.

If you would like to support one or more of the charitable organisations please send a separate cheque for each donation, made payable to the organisation - with the wording as below - and send to: Bosnia Appeal, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

1 War Child; 2 Victims of War Appeal (former Yugoslavia) - this for the Red Cross; 3 Care; 4 Cafod (Bosnia); 5 Christian Aid (Bosnia); 6 Edinburgh Direct Aid; 7 Feed the Children; 8 Help the Aged Former Yugoslavia Appeal; 9 Islamic Relief Bosnia Fund; 10 Marie Stopes International (Bosnia); 11 Oxfam; 12 The Refugee Council; 13 Save the Children Fund; 14 Scottish European Aid; 15 UNA Trust Bosnia.

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