By Attila Kulcsar
HelpAge and its local partner in the Philippines, Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), have now distributed food aid to more than 40,000 of the most vulnerable people in 30 hard hit communities in the area around Ormoc City on Leyte Island.
A combination of poverty and lack of family support makes older people particularly vulnerable in crises and poses enormous challenges for meeting their basic needs. (c) Coalition of Services for the Elderly (COSE)
Maria Chavez has been separated from her husband and children for a long time. Her eight children have their own families and live far from her. She feels that her family doesn't care about her anymore:
"I feel sad and lonely. I have children in Manila, others are in Cebu and Bacolod, but none of them asked about my situation after the typhoon or if I'm still alive or not."
She does laundry for rich families and during the days when she can't work, an older people's association supports her.
"I get my motivation and inspiration from older people in the association. They are now my family. They care for me."
Rebuilding homes, rebuilding lives
Rebuilding homes is a top priority for those affected, but shelter materials in the local market are scarce and in some places prices have doubled.
HelpAge is distributing 4,000 shelter kits from the UK government's Department for International Development (Dfid) which include buckets and lamps. HelpAge has also been helping the most vulnerable people to obtain the essentials they need to live and will be providing shelter vouchers for households to obtain zinc sheets, seals and roofing nails to repair their homes.
Fransiskus Kupang, COSE Executive Director, explained that the focus of efforts is helping people to get their lives back on track:
"Most of the older people we have come across have expressed that they just want to rebuild their homes, because they believe that when they get their homes back, things will start getting back to normal. We can help them to repair their homes and to get a roof over their heads. For them, rebuilding their homes is rebuilding their lives." (c) Coalition of Services for the Elderly (COSE)
Providing psychosocial support
Fidela Fernandez, 90, lives with her daughter Rosita, 63. Fidela has cataracts and a hearing impairment which limit her daily living activities. Their house was totally destroyed by the typhoon and they had to stay with their neighbour for two nights.
Rosita said: "We don't want to be a burden on our neighbours, so we decided to move. One of our neighbours helped us build a small shade with a simple roof just to give us temporary shelter.
They received food packs from their local government and their priority for now is their shelter.
"If someone will help us, we will rebuild our house again," they said.
HelpAge and COSE have established a psychosocial support – peer counselling desk with the help of the Confederation of Older Persons' Associations of the Philippines (COPAP) in Ormoc District Hospital, with COPAP organising a staff rotation system for the service. The programme will eventually provide psychosocial support to 3,000 extremely vulnerable and traumatised older people.
We have also identified 7,930 farmers who we will provide with seeds and fertilisers.
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.