Haiti earthquake: One month on


HelpAge staff get food and HelpAge staff get food and Older survivors' needs remain an urgent priority, one month on from the day a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti.

HelpAge staff and local partners have been working hard to meet the most vulnerable survivors' immediate needs for medical care, food and clean water, but huge challenges lie ahead.

200,000 older people affected

The latest estimated death toll issued by the government of Haiti stands at 230,000 people. Some 300,000 have been injured and around 1.2 million need emergency shelter.
An assessment carried out in Haiti by a number of agencies and co-ordinated by the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Haitian government found that older people are by far the most vulnerable group affected by the earthquake.

HelpAge International estimates at least 200,000 older people have been affected by the earthquake.

Age-friendly "wellbeing" kits

Jonathan Barden is Emergency Response Team Leader for HelpAge International in Haiti. He says:

"HelpAge initially responded with relief supplies to older people and their families in makeshift camps.

"We have also concentrated initial relief efforts on reaching older vulnerable people living in care homes. Working with local partners and other international agencies, we are currently providing support to several homes.

"We are giving older people essential medical supplies and medical care, food and drinking water, and age-friendly "wellbeing" kits. By the end of this week, we will have distributed to around 400 people.

"With World Vision, we will also deliver 7.5 metric tonnes of food to older people in nursing homes.

Continued support

"We're broadcasting messages on emergency community radio stations, to remind the public that vulnerable older people need support now.

"We will continue to support these nursing homes and older people in temporary camps. We will work with local organisations who provide homecare, preventative care and training for older carers.

"We are also planning to set up help points in 10 locations with other humanitarian organisations.

"In the coming months, we will address older people's specific health needs - both physical and psychological. This will be critical to helping people recover." 

Role in raising families

Frances Stevenson, Head of Emergencies at HelpAge International, says:

"It's important to acknowledge that many older people are strong and well enough to be involved in relief and rehabilitation efforts.

"Prior to the earthquake, older people often played a key role in raising families. This was because the middle generation were absent - either because they had migrated to look for work or because of HIV and AIDS."

With the right kind of support, these older people and their grandchildren can return to normal family life. In the early days, this means helping rebuild livelihoods, providing suitable shelter and building community support for older carers.

How you can help

You can support our work through our UK sister organisation Age UK

Our emergency response is also funded by international sister organisations HelpAge USA and HelpAge Germany.

So far, we have raised over £1 million.

In the UK, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal has raised over £77 million.

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.

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