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Typhoon Haiyan: The wish to return home

17 Dec 2013

An example of the shelter materials we have given older people to repair their houses. (c) Joselito dela CruzWe were driven up the east coast of the island from Cebu City close to the shore with glimpses of the beach and sea from time to time. There was a Sunday road race with cyclists in Lycra outfits.

In the Medellin area, some of the better houses had new bright red roofs made from rolls of zinc sheeting – flimsy and likened to sweet wrappers by a colleague. We arrived in a small fishing town with an idyllic Filipino white-sand beach.

A local government employee had been assigned by the mayor to work with HelpAge and our local partner Coalition of Services for the Elderly (COSE), and he took us to visit his mum. She is a large lady and reminds me of my grandmother so I called her Nana.

Traumatised by the typhoon

We cross the concrete yard to the room the neighbours have given her and Nana sits on her one remaining possession; her bed, which at night she shares with her cheerful son who graphically mimes how he had piggy backed her to the school to shelter from Typhoon Haiyan.

Nana's legs are painful and she has great difficulty walking. She has a huge open wound where an operation on a mole has taken away part of her nose, and she weeps. She is clearly traumatised by the typhoon and in pain. Nana's wish? To be in her own home, where she can struggle to the toilet by herself.

Next we go to see Ronaldo, who has gentle, accepting eyes. His priority is also to have a place of his own and so he sits in a flimsy shelter his family have put up for him and looks calmly at us. The shelter is barely big enough to move in or completely shield Ronaldo from the elements.

Long way to restore normality

Bags of debris from the typhoon. (c) Val Stevens/HelpAge InternationalBetween some more shacks, across another yard, we meet a tiny older lady. Isabel weeps a little, and shows us her home. For now, their house is one bamboo room on stilts with a double mattress in it on which five people sleep. Isabel cannot climb into the room on her own; her son-in-law has to lift her up onto the bamboo platform.

We heard that HelpAge and COSE are the only organisations in the area so far to help those affected by the typhoon with shelter materials – next week the team will be distributing more shelter kits. It's a start and will provide waterproof roofing but there's a very long way to go to restore any sort of normality.

And the back yards we walked across? Well they were the floors of the homes before they were completely destroyed. And there are the bits and debris left, in those bags in the corner.

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.

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Author profile

Val Stevens
Job title: Director of Finance

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