Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) is one of the strongest storms to ever hit land. Thousands of people have been killed; hundreds of thousands of homes have been destroyed; millions are at risk. We estimate that approximately 1.3 million older people have been affected by the typhoon.
The typhoon crashed into the Philippines in the early hours of 8 November. Pitch black, it was difficult enough to flee in darkness, let alone when contending with crashing waves and gushing winds. Imagine if on top of that, you are a frail, older person. How do you escape? And then when you are in a place of safety, how do you get aid that suits your needs?
Older people are particularly at risk
Older women and men are particularly at risk in emergencies. They are the ones least able to flee quickly; and the ones most likely to need support. They often cannot run; they cannot carry possessions – such as blankets and clothes to keep themselves warm and dry. They cannot queue for long periods for aid. They cannot rebuild their homes alone. They are often excluded from cash-for-work programmes, in the erroneous belief that they are no longer working. For many agencies, older people remain invisible.
Not for us. We seek out older people. We ask them what they need. And then we deliver ‘age-friendly’ emergency relief. That sounds like jargon, but it’s really quite simple.
Age-friendly emergency relief
We distribute food packages that older people can carry and open themselves, containing food they can eat and digest, and with the micronutrients they need. We deliver aid to older people themselves, rather than making them come to us.
We provide age-appropriate healthcare, distributing mobility aids, glasses and hearing aids, as well as medication for chronic illnesses.
In the medium term, we offer grants or loans for those who can work; cash transfers for those who cannot. So older people themselves can buy the things they need and support themselves and their families.
Working through local partners, we employ psychologists and home-care volunteers to help older people recover from the trauma. In countries frequently hit by disasters and conflict, older people may have experienced frequent losses.
If older people have been separated from their families, or are already alone, we ensure that they are included in family tracing and re-unification programmes.
And we provide temporary shelter and ensure other more able-bodied people help rebuild the homes of less able-bodied people.
What can you do?
The devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan has been devastating. It will take years, if not decades, for the country to recover. As the only UK charity focusing on the needs of older people, we need your support to raise awareness of their special needs; but also to support our work.
Please donate to our Philippines Typhoon Appeal on 0800 032 0699 or www.ageinternational.org.uk/typhoon. Alternatively to donate £5, please text URGENT to 70004
We need your help to reach older people in the Philippines.