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Recovering after typhoon Ketsana

06 Apr 2011

I travelled to the Philippines last month to see the work we have been carrying out through our partner in response to typhoon Ketsana.

Throughout my trip I saw how older people have been and are still working to get back on their feet and preparing against future disasters.

Sharing the voices of older people

I joined a meeting with the Confederation of Older Peoples Organisations of the Philippines (COPAP). COPAP is made up of representatives from Older People's Organisations (OPOs) from many communities. They meet once a month to share the voices of thousands of older people in their communities.

Our response to the typhoon came through our partner, Coalition of the Services of the Elderly (COSE). From listening to COPAP member's stories, it was clear that the people who had helped with the response were the very same people who were affected by the flooding.

Many lost their homes and some lost family members. Despite this, they carried on, identifying the people most in need, coming to the office and packing distribution boxes.

As well as participating in the emergency response, I asked them what their biggest achievement has been so far. They said: "The group is very strong. We build up public and government awareness of the needs and older people's issues." 

Older people were a crucial part of the emergency response

Rosemarie can now eat three meals a day.I also met with some village "barangay" councillors. When asked what the older people did after the typhoon, they replied: "They helped each other clean up and rebuild houses. They helped one another, which is the way in the Philippines."

They went on to say: "Older people played a role in managing the evacuation centres. They distributed goods, delivered babies and cooked."

I also met older people who have joined Older People's Organisations since the typhoon.

"We have started to recover little by little"

I spoke to Rosemarie, 56, who lives in Quezon City. She lives with her husband who is blind in one eye and two of her children in a small hut.

She has two other sons. One lives next door with his wife and two month old child.

"Before Ondoy (Ketsana) we were poor, after we were poorer. Thanks to the support from the Older People's Organisation, we have started to recover little by little"

Since she received some help from the Older People's Organisation, Rosemarie has supplemented her existing vegetable growing and vending business. "Before the livelihood support we only ate one meal a day, now we can have three," she added.

"Everywhere was flooded"

Carmelita with her family.I also met Carmelita, who is 59. She has six children - three boys and three girls. Five people live in her home - herself, her youngest son and his wife and her two grandchildren.

Of her experience, Carmelita was very emotional. She told us: "Everywhere was flooded. When the floods subsided, I went home and my house was destroyed and all my belongings had gone. This house was given to me by my son and daughter-in-law. I cried when it was washed away."

"I joined the OPO in 2009. I walked past one of the meetings and asked what they were doing. When I found out more, I joined. I feel happy being a member. It helps us. I like the team building aspect."

Looking to the future

I asked her how her life had changed since Ketsana. She said: "I am happy now I have a house. But we have to move because we are living in the [flood] danger zone. I might need to move far away to a safer place."

She also said they were preparing for future disasters by doing hazard mapping, seminars on disaster risk reduction and organising a disaster committee.

Carmelita finished by telling us: "If I was given the chance to live longer, I will be happy because I will see my family to grow and I hope they will be financially stable."

Read more about the work we do with and for older people in emergencies.

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Author profile


Lucy Blown
Country: U.K.
Job title: Emergencies Programme Officer

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