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Typhoon Ketsana devastates older people's lives in Vietnam

06 Oct 2009

At least 164 people have been killed and 15 left missing since typhoon Ketsana lashed central Vietnam last Tuesday.

The typhoon has caused more than US$600 million in damage and has affected more than three million people.

A large number of these are older people, with The Vietnam Association of the Elderly (VAE) estimating that around 300,000 older people have been affected by typhoon Ketsana.

On 4 October, six days after typhoon Ketsana struck, Tuan, a reporter from the National Vietnam Association of the Elderly (VAE) managed to reach a small commune in Phuoc Son district, Quang Nam Province. The VAE had collected some donations locally and had set up small relief distribution points in communes affected by the typhoon. This is Tuan's story:

"As I arrived at the provincial VAE office, I asked to visit a relief distribution point. The next morning, we met at the provincial VAE office, where a group of volunteers was already loading our small truck with relief supplies.

"Most of the relief supplies were donated by local communities. It took us around an hour to reach our distribution point. Large stretches of rice fields and farm lands were still 1 to 2 metres underwater and many of the villages we passed showed signs of major destruction; houses had lost their roofs, windows and doors and some had totally collapsed.

More aid is needed

"We finally reached the relief supply distribution point where the local commune VAE had managed to gather a large number of older people from surrounding villages to receive their relief packages.

"The relief supplies were a mixture of used clothing, blankets, rice, noodles and assorted canned foods. Working with the commune's Association of the Elderly, volunteers had managed to come up with a list of 1,357 older people affected by Typhoon Ketsana from nine surrounding villages.

"With such a large number of older people and limited relief supplies, the local VAE tried their best to distribute the relief supplies out as fairly as possible. By 3pm, the relief supplies ran out but there were still around 300 older people who had not received their small relief packages.

"After a quick meeting, it was decided that the older people who did not receive their relief package should write their name down and the local VAE would try to collect more relief packages to distribute to them in the coming days.

"While the remaining older people who did not receive their relief supplies were queuing to sign their names, I took the opportunity to talk to some of the older people and take their photos."

The people I met:

Ms Nguyen Thi Hong: She is 80 years old. Her entire crop is lost and she has also lost all of her 30 chickens.

She has difficulty walking and needs a small cane. When asked what she hopes for, her response was:

"I hope the government can give me some support like seeds and loans for me to restart my chicken farm. Without such support, I do not know how I can make a living to support myself."

Mr Tran Van Quoc: He is 83. His home was flooded and his family was forced to live on the roof for two days. Since the flooding, him and his family have been busy cleaning up the mud.

He recalled: "There is mud everywhere. We have been cleaning and cleaning and still have only managed to clean the mud from our house and a small part of your yard.

"Our rice fields are still buried under a thick layer of mud and we would need to quickly re-plough and replant if we want to have a winter crop this year. We need money to re-build our home and farm. We do not have any other choice. "

"It is very hard to leave them without providing the help that they truly need. It is my first and last trip to the distribution point, but for the people I have met, tomorrow will be another day and another relief distribution point."

Find out more about what we do in emergencies to help older people.

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Sarah Marzouk
Country: UK
Job title: Digital Communications

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