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Typhoon Haiyan: How we're supporting older people in the Philippines

11 Nov 2013

Residents walk on a road littered with debris after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines. (c) REUTERS/Erik De Castro Courtesy Trust.orgThe Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE) is already on the ground in the Philippines, working with HelpAge to support older people affected by the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan.

For the last 14 years, COSE has cultivated a network of older people's associations that help older people continue living in their communities. Some were able to minimise the impact of Typhoon Haiyan on older people by taking precautions in areas that were likely to be affected.

For example, COSE texted older leaders in La Castellana on Negros Island two days before the Typhoon hit and warned them to evacuate older people. Most of these people were evacuated to safely even though the area was one of the most devastated. But there are still many areas where we have no information about what has happened.

No assistance in some areas

Although some international NGOs have reached Tacloban City, one of the worst hit areas, we are concerned that there are some areas where are no international agencies at all. We are trying to access regions on other islands, including Negros Occidental which has also been devastated. All the homes were flattened, but there is no assistance for people here except from the local government units.

We are worried that many people have died and we are carrying out assessments in Sagay, La Castellana and Bacolod City, as well as in Cebu and Bohol in the municipalities of Inabanga and Loon.

In line with our mission of supporting community-based programmes, we will be looking at the situation of older people in the communities and in the evacuation shelters. We are in touch with network partners in Legazpi City in Bicol Region and Dinagat Islands in Caraga region where we will also be helping with assessments.

Priorities are food, water and shelter

The main priorities are food and clean water. There is also a need for shelter as all the houses have been destroyed and people are just wandering the streets. We are also concerned that there is no medical assistance for people who were injured during the Typhoon.

HelpAge and COSE emergencies teams report that affected areas in central Philippines have been without electricity for some time. COSE staff have been deployed from Manila and Davao offices to affected areas, but with communication and transportation cut off we face huge challenges.

COSE keeps older people at the forefront of community activities and ensures their inclusion in community matters and programmes throughout establishment of older people organisations and has built a strong network of organisations in Metro Manila and other regions. With HelpAge we have undertaken emergency preparedness and response activities across the Philippines, using our network older people's organisations to undertake rapid assessments and deployment of relief items to the most affected older people.

Prepared for emergencies, previous Typhoon responses

For example, we have had activities in response to previous typhoons Santi (Mirinae) in 2009, Nesat in 2011, and Bopha in 2012, which have included provision of essential relief items - food and other essential items, community based livelihood support, shelter, access to water, psychosocial activities and disaster risk management orientations and mapping.

In 2013, HelpAge and COSE provided emergency relief to 1,358 older people and over 8,000 family members in 11 barangays of Mindanao province affected by Typhoon Bopha. Due to the frequency of natural disasters in the Philippines, we're implementing a disaster risk reduction programme in Mindanao.

In areas where programme activities have started, the causalities reported were much fewer, due to their preparedness actions and as a result of training provided to date.

Donate now

In the UK

HelpAge's sister organisation, Age International, has launched an emergency appeal to support older people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Or you can text URGENT to 70004 to donate £5 to help older people in the Philippines.

In the USA

HelpAge's sister organisation, HelpAge USA, has launched an emergency appeal to support older people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

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Author profile


Fransis Kupang
Country: Philippines
Job title: Executive Director, COSE

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