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Typhoon Haiyan: Nowhere to shelter from the elements

20 Nov 2013

Man on a bike with his food pack. (c) HelpAge InternationalOur second distribution this week took place in a barangay (village) called San Jose which is about 45 minutes' drive from Ormoc city. Not even the church still has a roof, but we still need to use the building as our venue.

Religious pictures are strewn across the pavement outside and the church pews have also been removed from the building. We use these to set up our distribution point.

We busily get to work as we see that it may rain soon and it's getting quite dark. After 500 food kits have been given out, the heavens open and we have to postpone the rest of the distribution because of the lack of shelter. I've never been on a relief distribution before where there was nowhere to shelter from the elements. And we have to protect vulnerable people even as we're helping them.

Those who need it, get it

Man with Goddy's hat. (c) HelpAge InternationalHere we have given out the foodkits to all those who need food, regardless of age. In the immediate aftermath we make no distinctions – those who need it, get it.

Later, in the early stages of recovery, will be the time to target older people. But when it comes to queues, older people and people with disabilities are given priority.

It's like business class here, if you're a senior citizen you can check in anytime!

But before the downpour started I had two pleasant encounters with people we had helped. I watched one older man as he walked away from the distribution and slowly, deliberately tied and re-tied the bag to the handle-bars of his bicycle. The whole process took several minutes. I went over to see if I could offer any help, but he just gave a big thumbs up, got on his bike and wobbled off.

A few minutes after receiving his foodkit, another older man returned looking confused and perplexed. He'd put his hat down and now couldn't find it anywhere. He wandered back and forth searching everywhere. It was possibly one of his few remaining belongings left after the typhoon.

Did he longingly glance at the hat on my head? I'm not sure but I left in the pouring rain without my hat waving to the smiling San Josean, white HelpAge hat perched on his head. He was going to need it more than me over the coming months.

Donate now

In the UK

Our 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

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


If you live outside the UK and the USA you can donate to support older people affected by Typhoon Haiyan here.

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Author profile

Godfred Paul
Job title: Myanmar Country Director

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