By Caroline Graham
HelpAge International 2011 HelpAge International has distributed food baskets, hygiene kits and useful items such as torches to older people affected by floods in Colombia.
Around 1.9 million people were affected by severe flooding throughout the country last month.
HelpAge and its partners, Fundación Red Desarrollo y Paz de los Montes de María and Fundación Paz y Bien, have now distributed items to around 150 families in two communities in Montes de María in the north of the country and 20 families in Cali in the west.
So far, 144 hygiene kits, 144 torches and batteries, 144 kitchen kits and 144 food packets were given out to older people most in need in Mampujan in Bolívar and Caracol in Sucre.
While 20 families in Cali, that are headed by older people, received food packets, as well as toiletries, wellington boots, mosquito nets, hammocks, plastic sheeting and bedding.
More rains predicted
The distributions will indirectly benefit around 350 people in total.
On 13 December, 14 hours of heavy rainfall caused the River Pechilin in Caracol to break its banks. This resulted in flash flooding in the middle of the night. The water rose some ten metres, reaching the roofs of the nearest houses.
HelpAge's director of programmes in Colombia, Susannah Taylor, said this week: "The rains have now stopped and the flooding has receded. However, rains are again predicted for March, which is one of the two normal rainy seasons in Colombia.
"Therefore, the non-food items we will provide, such as plastic sheeting and wellington boots, will initially stand the older people in good stead in case of further flooding.
Older people's groups identified needs
"It is a good achievement that the Older Citizens Monitoring Groups in Montes de María, established by HelpAge, were able to use the censuses they had recently collated of older people in each community, in order to rapidly identify which older people were affected by the flooding and what needs they had."
Older citizens monitoring group were set up by HelpAge and Fundación Red Desarrollo y Paz de los Montes de María.
They are part of an ongoing project which has set up these groups in four communities which were each affected in different ways by Colombia's internal armed conflict ten years ago.
The groups are lobbying local authorities to improve older people's access to health services and better delivery of Colombia's social protection programme.