The heart of the HelpAge Network responds to Typhoon Haiyan
I had worked for HelpAge for less than two hours when I first spoke to Fransiskus, the Executive Director of our Affiliate in the Philippines, the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE). Our inspiring discussion then was about older people's rights and our Age Demands Action campaign.
Less than six weeks later, Fransiskus and his team of staff, volunteers and network of older people's associations in the Philippines are now delivering what we all expect to be one of the largest emergency response and recovery programmes that the HelpAge network has ever launched.
Devastating damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan
The damage caused by the winds and tidal surge of Typhoon Haiyan is truly devastating. Comparisons to the damage caused by the 2004 Tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, are not overdone - it's a very natural thing to imagine yourself in a flood or a hurricane, and think that somehow you would always be able to keep yourself and your family safe, but events like this remind us that there are some events where this is simply not the case.
Of the 9.5 million affected, we estimate that 1.3 million people over 50. I am sure that anyone reading this will already have seen images or read stories that haunt them of the challenges older people are dealing with. For me, it was the voice of a man my age, desperately telling a radio reporter that his beloved 84-year-old father, a dialysis patient, would die if he didn't get him back onto treatment in the next day or two. And this in a town where the airport is still shut for many civilians, and there is barely a functioning health clinic across the city.
Compassion and support for typhoon survivors
Alongside this devastation, we are starting to see an outpouring of compassion across the world, including the countries where members of the public and their Governments are in a position to contribute financially to the humanitarian response and eventual recovery efforts.
I am certain this will increase further in the coming days.
Making things better for older people: we all have part to play
It has been wonderful to see the way that the HelpAge network has already mobilised so effectively. Public appeals have been launched by many of our Affiliates, and we are already seeing large amounts pledged. HelpAge Germany, for example, has estimated that they may raise up to 1 million Euros, an incredible and encouraging figure. And we have extremely exciting news that AARP in the US has pledged to match fund donations from their members up to US$500,000.
Each of us can play a part in making things better for older people in the Philippines. Here's how:
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.