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The first field test was carried out in an urban context (Addis Ababa) in February 2014. A second field test will be done in a rural contact (Tanzania) in June 2014.

We want to share with you the results of the needs assessment done in Kolfe Keranyio, a highly populated sub-city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This is not about the method of RAM-OP itself: the comparison between RAM-OP and more traditional method will be presented in another blog.

We interviewed a total of 889 older people in 50 different areas of the sub-city, and measured their mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC). The team used questionnaires to collect data on eating habits, hunger scale, activities of daily living, psychological distress, social and health status, and access to water and sanitation.

We found that a small percentage of older people in Kolfe Keranyio are malnourished (between 3.4 and 7 per cent). It means that between 1,100 and 2,200 persons aged 50 and above (using the 2007 census figures) are in need of nutrition support, which does not exist for older adults.

The risk factor analysis shows that, as they get older, people are more likely to be malnourished. This supports HelpAge’s strategy to provide special attention to “the oldest of the old”, particularly people aged 80 and more. Other risk factors are the existence of a disability, and factors linked with the diet (having a poor appetite, eating less than 3 meals per day, poor diet diversity).

We also found out that mental health is an important issue with older people. The percentage of older people with severe psychological distress is quite high (12.7 per cent), while there are very limited psycho-social support available.

This leads us to make some recommendations about access to nutritional interventions, food support, and psychosocial support. They can be endorsed by the HelpAge office in Ethiopia, as well as by our partner TESFA, a community-based association who helped us to organise the survey in Kolfe Keranyio.

The fourteen enumerators were specially trained for the survey. For most of them, they had never worked with older people, and they were full of apprehension on how they would be received by knocking on doors. It was a revelation for them to discover how older people were generally happy to welcome them into their houses, and share some of their experience with them.

In January 2014, HelpAge International, in collaboration with Valid International and Brixton Health, received funds from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund to develop an innovative method of assessing the nutritional needs of older people in emergencies. The Rapid Assessment Method for Older People (RAM-OP) is meant to offer a simple, quick, reliable, robust and cost effective method for assessing the nutritional status and vulnerabilities of older people in emergencies.

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