HelpAge to aid older people affected by Colombia floods


By Caroline Graham

HelpAge International is to distribute food baskets, hygiene kits and useful items such as bedding and torches to older people affected by the Colombia floods.

So far 257 people have died and a further 1.9 million have been affected by severe flooding throughout the country this winter.

HelpAge will meet the emergency needs of older people in two communities in Montes de María in the north of the country: Mampujan in María la Baja, Bolívar and Caracol in Toluviejo, Sucre.

Eulogio from Montes de María in his home ruined by Colombia floods Eulogio from Montes de María stands in his home ruined by floods Louise O'Gorman/HelpAge International 2010

Aid will consist of basic food and other useful items for older people whose houses have been flooded and lost their belongings, crops and animals.

Relief will include food baskets, basic kitchen kits, hygiene kits, wellington boots, torches, plastic sheeting, mattresses and sheets.

The packages will be given to 150 older people and their families, benefiting around 300 people in total.

The distributions will be carried out by the Fundación Red Desarrollo y Paz de los Montes de María, HelpAge's partner in the region since 2009.

Flood waters reached the roofs

On Monday, 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 and covering the two streets nearest the river. The electricity went out and people scrambled to rescue what belongings they could.

The following day, after the water had receded, HelpAge visited Manpujam and Caracol to assess the immediate needs of the older people affected by the floods.

Older people's groups identified needy

The assessment was carried out by each community's older citizens' monitoring group. They identified the older people most in need of help.

The monitoring groups were set up by HelpAge and its partner. They are part of an ongoing project which has set up these groups in four communities of different municipalities.

The communities 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. They also want better financial help in the form of improved delivery of Colombia's social protection programme.

"Older people took a crucial lead"

Sarah Packwood, HelpAge's Emergency Programme Coordinator, said: "There is an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Colombia, with over three million people forcibly displaced by conflict.

"In this context, the vulnerabilities of older people and their families are compounded by the onset of natural disasters such these devastating floods.

"It is commendable that older citizen's monitoring groups in Montes de María are taking a crucial lead in identifying the most vulnerable affected by severe flooding.

"With the support from Fundación Red Desarollo y Paz, these groups will distribute much needed relief items to their local communities before Christmas."

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