Concern mounts for Haiti's vulnerable older people

18/01/2010

An older man sits amongst the rubble in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. An older man sits amongst the rubble in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo: REUTERS/Jorge Silva Emergency aid is beginning to get through to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, according to HelpAge staff in Port-au-Prince.

However, six days after Haiti's worst ever earthquake, aid is still achingly slow to get to those who need it most.

Bertin Meance, Emergencies Programme Officer in Haiti, says:

"We've seen news reports of older people in nursing homes in desperate need. We are concerned for the immediate welfare of the people staying at the Port-au-Prince Municipal Nursing Home.

We have alerted the Mayor of Port-au-Prince to their plight and we are doing our utmost to get emergencies supplies there tomorrow (Tuesday).  We've also been in contact with a priest in Petit-Goâve who runs a home for older people. He needs food assistance for 65 elderly people."

It is estimated that over 3 million people have been affected directly or indirectly by this tragedy. Thousands of survivors are in desperate need of food, water, medication, shelter and emotional support.

Older people in "desperate need"

Bertin Meance continues: "The emergency team from the UK and Jamaica have had difficulties getting here but have managed to get a flight in today from Dominican Republic.

Together with our partners, our team will be ready to start assisting those desperately in need immediately.

More importantly we will reach the older people, a group that can get left behind and forgotten in a catastrophe of this magnitude. We have already identified a number of groups that need urgent help - for food, and medical supplies such as wheelchairs and many of course need psychosocial support, because they have never see anything like this in their lifetime."

Bertin also reports that people are continuing to flee Port-au-Prince for rural areas.

"People have continued to leave for the provinces.  It is expected that the meager resources in the rural areas will soon be depleted because of this influx of people.

There is a lot of frustration in towns such as Leogane, Petit-Goave, Jacmel, La Vallee de Jacmel, Bainet and Cotes-de-Fer that the relief efforts have concentrated only in Port-au-Prince, although even in Port-au-Prince the assistance is reaching the people too slowly.

However, it's been announced today that banks and gas stations will open soon. Internet and phone communication have also improved. This will facilitate the relief efforts tremendously."

HelpAge is working with local partners

"We're working with our local partner CARPA to provide immediate help for 300 older people - food and water to start with, then other basic essential items."

The team has also met up with Simon Bolivar the Director of ALA Dominicana, our partner in the Dominican Republic. ALA is sending two Mobile Medical Units to support relief efforts, led by gerontologist Dr Rosy Pereyra Ariza.

We are also working with local partner APROSIFA which operates in the slums of Port Au Prince.

How you can help

Our emergency team have been heartened by the news that £23 million has already been raised by the UK Disasters Emergency Committee Haiti Earthquake Appeal since its launch on 14 January.

The DEC is an umbrella organisation that launches and coordinates the UK's national appeals in response to major disasters overseas. HelpAge International's sister organisation Age UK is a member.

Our international sister organisations have also launched appeals to support our response in Haiti.

For those outside the UK, you can donate to our Haiti relief efforts through:

World Granny

HelpAge USA

HelpAge Germany

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