HelpAge supports older farmers in the Philippines


By Attila Kulcsar

Typhoon Haiyan not only left millions of people displaced, it also destroyed the livelihoods of the poorest in the agriculture sector.

52% of small scale farmers in the Philippines are older and in many rural areas over half are also living in poverty. One of the typhoon's biggest impacts has been on the coconut industry. More than 15 million trees were destroyed, which wiped out the livelihoods of thousands of coconut farmers. Fidela and her daughter Rosita wish to rebuild their house. Fidela and her daughter Rosita wish to rebuild their house. (c) Coalition of Services for the Elderly (COSE)

As new coconut trees take about eight years to regrow, these farmers need to find alternative livelihoods, such as an intermediary crop. With this in mind, HelpAge has distributed around 3,500 bags of rice seed and more than 2,000 bags of fertiliser in four areas of Leyte island to help farmers to get back on their feet again.

Shelter materials to rebuild lives

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.

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 has distributed 4,000 shelter kits, which include buckets, solar powered lamps, rope and plastic sheeting. We will also be providing shelter vouchers for households to obtain zinc sheets, seals and roofing nails to repair their homes.

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 have had to stay with their neighbour.

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 authorities and their priority for now is shelter.

"If someone will help us, we will rebuild our house again," they said.

Older volunteers providing help to the traumatised

HelpAge and our local partner, the Coalition of Services for the Elderly (COSE) are providing ongoing psychosocial support with the help of the Confederation of Older Persons' Associations of the Philippines (COPAP) in Ormoc District Hospital and through a mobile clinic in partnership with Mercy Malaysia.

COPAP have been organising a volunteer rotation system for the service, with the third batch of older volunteers from Manila now providing support. The programme has already helped about 1,650 extremely vulnerable and traumatised people.

We're also very pleased to announce that COSE have been nominated for an award from the Department of Social Welfare and Development. This is in recognition of their work sharing their time, resources and expertise to provide better opportunities for disadvantaged groups. The awards ceremony takes place on 16 January, so we wish them very good luck!

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