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Typhoon Haiyan: Aid arrives but more help needed

18 Nov 2013

Haimy, 73, with his food pack. (c) HelpAge InternationalComparisons are odious but aid workers and the media seem intent on asking how Typhoon Haiyan compares with previous disasters.

Well, Ormoc City reminds me of the Indian Ocean Tsunami days for sure, except it goes on for hundreds of kilometres inland – the desolated landscape, the decimated power lines, and the destroyed hospitals, schools, houses, and shops. 

600 food kits packed and distributed

We arrived at our packing centre at 9am on Sunday and began packing emergency food kits. Two hours later we have 600 kits packed – each one enough to feed a family of six people for one week.

By the end of Sunday afternoon we had distributed these to the community in the Baranguay of Kadaohan outside Ormoc city. Apart from one government distribution, they had received no other aid.

From what I saw, I'd estimate that 90% of houses and buildings were badly affected. Most people in this village are sugar cane workers. The sugar cane landowners had not been seen since the disaster struck and had not assisted with any aid.

Separate queues to serve older people first

When we got there, several hundred people are queuing. We immediately request that those over 60 form a separate line and they get served first. We see several people in the other line who we approach and ask if they want to come forward, and are struck by their honesty as they say: "No, I'm only 59."

Shelter more important than money

Norma Comade, 64 and Guellerma Calome, 63, are some of the first to receive their food packs. They tell us: "We live next to our children and grandchildren, but all our houses have been severely hit. What is most important right now? Houses are more important than money, because without shelter we can't be well enough to work, especially when it rains. We have started building small shelters with whatever scrap is lying around after the storm."

Food distribution is a big help

Haimy Alligey, 73, tells us: "There's no roof on my house now. I've been busy the last few days making repairs. I live with my children and their family and they look after me well. They're sugar cane workers but not working right now. They usually earn 55-100 pesos a day, but no work means no money. The owners live far away and haven't been to see the damage, or us, yet. This distribution will be a big help to us."

"Please send more help"

Solidad, 71, says that more help in needed to support older people affected by Typhoon Haiyan. (c) HelpAge International Solidad, 71, said: "Our house has lost most of the roof but we are still here. My husband is here in bed and very ill. He had a stroke several months ago. Our children and grandchildren live next door but it was also hit badly.

"Thank you so much for this food, but we need so much more. Please send more help."

She breaks down and cries...

Priority is food, then shelter

Antonio Dutullo, 65 is retired from the army so gets a small pension (we can see that Antonio's house is a better quality than most others in the village). Parts of the roof are gone and water is dripping everywhere. "The priority for everyone in the village is food. Forget clothing. Food, then shelter, then work.

"Once the national authorities fix the irrigation channels we can start working in the sugar cane again but who knows how long that will take. We also plant rice and vegetables and planting starts in January to it would be useful to have rice and vegetable seed and seedlings. For now we are just so happy to receive this food. Thank you so much!"

On Monday morning, the team were out again and distributing another 600 food kits to 3,600 older people who were relieved to get them. Without sounding like a PR woman the fact we were to do all this is really was down to two things: Firstly, our amazing local partner COSE whose links across the Philippines meant we could get to work relatively quickly and, secondly, the access to DFID UK's rapid response facility and funding from the German government which allows us to kick start the response immediately.

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.

Your comments

Kalpataru Behera

It's a great support and big hand to the affected elderly peoples by Typhoon Haiyan.

Tim Boersma

We are reacting to this disaster as well, using it to help in recovery efforts after future mega disasters. We are developing facial recognition software for use in helping families local to the disaster and abroad find each other, we have a campaign in the technology section of indiegogo, "Where is My Family". We also are contributing to this project for helping Ormoc City. Thing is we have family in Tacloban and worried until yesterday to ascertain where they were alive or dead. The aftermath of these storms is unimaginable. As a people I hope we come away from such events with a sense of what is really important, other people!, not gadgets, luxuries or possessions, values can change. Ormoc City our hearts go out to you, May you be overwhelmed with support.

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Author profile

Rosaleen Cunningham
Country: Ireland
Job title: Freelance Media and Communications

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