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Typhoon Haiyan: Older people and children in need of medical help

03 Dec 2013

Francesca sitting in the ruins of her house. (c) Peter Caton/HelpAge InternationalLast week our food distribution team specifically targeted hard-to-reach communities that had received little or no aid. On Friday we'd planned to go to four baranguays but the weather severely affected our progress.

That, combined with fallen electricity poles and wires, made the journeys longer than normal and made the rural villages feel more isolated than they would have been only a few weeks ago.

The first distribution was at San Sebastian, in the municipality of Matagob. We asked people living further up the hill in the baranguay of Bulak to come down for their food kits as we couldn't get the trucks and vans up the road. Its surface has been washed and blown away and is now bare rock in places.

Taking shelter in a health centre with no roof

Francesca, 78 came down the hill on her basic motorbike from Bulak. It's about 20 minutes up the hill but the very old and very young can't come up and down it now, it's too hard.

She told us: "My house has been totally destroyed. I can't even get my clothes and cooking utensils out from under the rubble. Right now we are taking shelter in the health centre which has very little roof left.

"My husband is 85. He is ill and lying on a bed there, but no medical staff have been back to the health centre. No one is coming to see us. Because he is old, I think the medical services think he is not an emergency.

"I know the roads are so bad that it is hard to get up here. I have diabetes and have run out of medicine. I don't know where to go to get it, as I usually buy it from the hospital. If I don't take the medicine I get bad pains in my legs and I find it hard to walk, and I will need a stick to get around.

"For now, I'm rubbing herbal plants into my legs but I need medicine soon. Many of the children and older people up in Bulak are getting sick and are in need of help."

Later we go up with Francesca to her village. I'm sure only a few weeks ago it was a picturesque village with views over an expansive valley. Bernie, whose truck we've almost ruined just getting there, finds out that Bulak had 139 houses before the typhoon. There are five houses left standing now.

Back down at the distributions, things are on hold as the wind and rain play havoc with distributions. About 80 people huddle under our quickly assembled tarpaulins, no one keen to go home without their food kit.

Buried without a vigil

Florencia and her husband with their food pack. (c) Peter Caton/HelpAge InternationalFlorencia, 64, and her husband Ling Lino, 69 take us to the remains of their home. Florencia tells us: "We raised our children and our grandchildren here. We have raised my son's children as he lives elsewhere and we have other children in Manila but none of them send money home regularly.

"We heard the typhoon warnings but we didn't expect anything like this. There's never been anything like it in our lives. The eight people that died here were mostly older people. We all buried them quickly, without doing it properly, without a vigil.

"That bothers us, but what could we do? That is the first time we've done that. But we won't evacuate this baranguay. Where would we go? This is our home. We've lived here forever."

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.

Elsewhere

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


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

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