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“Older men and women are not the priority. They cry in silence and their tears are not heard.”

31 Aug 2010

An older woman shields from the rain in PakistanOne month after the flooding in Pakistan began, HelpAge International's Pakistan Programme Manager Asma Akbar sends her latest update:

"People are starting to migrate and go back to their homes now. They are trying to go back as they feel much safer.

"Floodwaters continue to flow through Sind and Punjab but where HelpAge is working, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (PKP) province, conditions are better. The water is not flowing through and has stopped moving. However this brings its own problems as standing water can cause disease. 

The two main problems for older people are access and visibility

"I am hearing stories about how older women cannot get to the washrooms or reach the toilets. Because of not wanting to be seen in public, they are waiting until the evening to leave the house before they can visit the toilet. This is not good.

"It is also much harder for them to access food. Where HelpAge is working, in Nowshera, things are drying up a bit. People are becoming a bit more independent. But while men in temporary camps can go and get food, the women and girls are left behind. As a result in the camps we are seeing women, children and older people coming together but we must ensure they are not forgotten.

Helpless, afraid and isolated

"Older women who are at home are often with the younger girls in the family yet they cannot go out and get food for them. As a result the older women, who are already traumatised by the floods, now feel helpless, afraid and isolated.

"We have worked with Merlin in Nowshera for several years and have worked with their medical teams throughout this emergency. As we plan for a longer term response to this disaster, we will continue to work with Merlin and also explore working with other partners so maybe we can expand into other areas.

"I think one of the biggest challenges we have at HelpAge is that during a disaster, many people understandably prioritise children. Everyone focuses on getting food and help for children. Children are visible and and cry loudly if they are not fed. The families see them. But older men and women are not the priority. They cry in silence and their tears are not heard."

Read more about HelpAge's work in Pakistan

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Asma Akbar

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.