Six months on: Older Haitians still need support

12/07/2010

Six months after 12 January's devastating earthquake in Haiti, HelpAge International has responded to the most urgent needs of 24,000 older people and their families. Dr Luc Herby Mesadieu manages HelpAge’s support to eight care homes in Haiti. Dr Luc Herby Mesadieu manages HelpAge’s support to eight care homes in Haiti. Photo: Frederic Dupoux/HelpAge International

"Committed to older people"

HelpAge International Chief Executive Richard Blewitt said:

"The challenges facing the affected population in Haiti and the aid agencies working to meet their needs are unprecedented.

"The situation in Haiti before the earthquake was already very fragile. More than 70% of the population were living on less than US$2 per day, and older people in particular were depending heavily on remittances from the US.

"Taking all this into account, it is clear that we have a long way to go to help older Haitians and their families get back on their feet. But we are committed to ensuring that our support for older people in Haiti will have a long term and meaningful impact."

Older people excluded from reconstruction

Roger Markowski, Emergency Programme Manager with HelpAge in Haiti, describes the situation facing older people:

"We recently spoke with 150 older people across five settlement camps. They revealed to us a dismal picture of life in the camps and their frustrations at being excluded from humanitarian assistance.

"Many older people felt they were being left out of "cash-for-work" programmes run by several international organisations. With this cash they want to generate income to provide for their family. Older people want to be active participants in reconstruction."

What has HelpAge achieved so far? 

We have:

  • Provided staff salaries and equipment to one ward of a privately-run, state-owned hospital (CENSHOP). It now has an emergency medical facility for older people, 30 beds, and access to laboratories and operating theatres.

  • Distributed food, temporary shelters, medical supplies and nursing care to seven older people's care homes in Port-au-Prince, Petit Goave and Leogane. The most prominent of these has been the Municipal Nursing Home or "Asile Communale", which was badly damaged in the earthquake.

  • Supported and trained local organisations focusing on older people's care, such as the Institute for the Study of Integrated Care (IPESI). The Institute provided homecare and training of carers prior to the earthquake, but its training facility was totally destroyed. Surviving staff have been working with HelpAge to track older people at risk and provide them with food, well-being kits and temporary shelters.

  • Given food, shelters and other essential items to 3,000 older people.

  • Organised recreational day trips for older people to benefit their mental health.

£101 million raised

Meanwhile the UK Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), announced that it has raised £101 million which has so far funded emergency assistance to 1.2 million people. Age UK, HelpAge's sister organisation, is a member of the DEC.

HelpAge's response in Haiti has also been funded by the US AARP (through HelpAge USA) and HelpAge Germany

DEC funding will be spent over three years in total, rather than the usual two, but many member agencies such as HelpAge will stay on well beyond that using funding from other sources. 

A series of short videos showing what HelpAge International/ Age UK and other DEC members have achieved, and the challenges still facing them and the people of Haiti are on the DEC YouTube channel.

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