By Carolyn Canham
Today, HelpAge and our partner in the Philippines, the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), joined with Handicap International, Leonard Cheshire Disability Philippines Foundation and CBM to launch the Aging and Disability Task Force (ADTF) in the Philippines. (c) Aura Sevilla
The ADTF will promote and support the inclusion of older people and people with disabilities in all humanitarian responses in the Philippines. The first ADTF was formed by HelpAge and fellow NGOs in response to the 2010 Pakistan floods.
It will also advocate for older people and people with disabilities to be included in all government relief and recovery strategies, including the ongoing Typhoon Haiyan recovery.
In addition, the task force will attempt to influence wider policy-making and push for the full implementation of all laws and rights related to older people and people with disabilities.
The emergency context
COSE executive director Fransiskus Kupang said at the launch:
“Age and disability are two critical sectors that are often ignored in the assessment of humanitarian needs and operations.
“The majority of older people and people with disabilities cannot count on family and community support, so we need to address their specific needs, especially during emergencies.
“This is where the ADTF comes in to provide national level advocacy for the inclusion of older people and people with disabilities during disaster risk reduction, emergency responses, early recovery and future development activities.”
Example of Typhoon Haiyan
Experience from previous crises and assessments conducted in response to Typhoon Haiyan show that older people and people with disabilities have difficulty accessing relief because they lack awareness about the services available or because services are not designed to meet their needs. For example, distributions do not cater for limited mobility or visual impairment.
The ADTF will also raise awareness of the crucial roles older people and people with disabilities play within their families and communities during emergency responses.
The task force is open to all national and international humanitarian actors interested in ensuring age and disability sensitivity in their programmes and the wider humanitarian community.
Committed to older people's rights
Both government representatives and leaders from older people’s associations attended the launch event.
Speaking at the launch, Ronie Rosero from the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines said they were committed to taking serious action to ensure the rights of older people and people with disabilities are being protected.
Dioscorro Benalla, the president of the Confederation of Older People’s Associations of the Philippines, said:
"We are glad we're not alone and are happy that older people and people with disabilities are coming together to fight to protect their rights."