By Caroline Graham
HelpAge is working to help at least 2,500 older people and their families affected by the floods in Thailand.
The country’s worst flooding in half a century has caused widespread damage in approximately 60 provinces out of 76.
Older people have been severely affected, mainly due to poor mobility and lack of money. Thousands are stranded in their homes without basic essentials such as food, water and medicine.
(c) HelpAge International
Our partners, the Rural Elderly Entrepreneurship Development Association (REEDA) and the YMCA, say some moved out of their homes to relief centres.
However, thousands of older people remained in their houses, never believing the water level would rise this high. Flooding on this scale has never happened in their lifetime.
Older people were also worried about security and did not want to leave their houses empty for fear of having property stolen.
Now they are finding it almost impossible to go out and get essential supplies.
We are working with REEDA in the central provinces of Chainat and Singburi and with the YMCA in Ayuthaya, near Bangkok. Together, we are assessing the specific needs of older people in these areas so we can provide appropriate relief assistance.
Cut off from the community
HelpAge International's Senior Programme Manager in the region, Godfred Paul, said: "Some older people are unable to move due to mobility problems. Some are refusing to leave as they do not want to leave their home unattended. Others do not want to be a burden to their children or other family members, so decided to stay back.
"These older people are not able to get to distribution centres, health and other essential services. They are cut off from the rest of the community. People who are still living in their homes need food, water, medicines and items for hygiene such as soap.
"Some older people want to go out to get essential items but need help. Many have tried wading through the water with walking sticks. A local newspaper reported an older women coming to the food distribution point after having starved for five days in her house."
The Thai Government does not have enough boats or boat drivers to deliver help to people in need. Prices of essential goods are sharply rising, and cases of theft and other crimes are increasing as people become more desperate.
"All this makes older people even more vulnerable," Paul added.
Some older people stranded in their houses cannot even afford to pay for a ride in the few boat services available. They are unable to call for help as they have no electricity to charge their mobile phones or because they have run out of credit.
Those with chronic conditions have run out of medicines and cannot get to hospitals or health centres. Not knowing when the flood waters will recede, or if their home and possessions are safe, is causing many older people a great deal of anxiety and stress.
Delivering essential items
Needs assessments so far have shown the main items required are food and drink, such as rice and milk. Other essential items such as blankets, toilet paper, water filters, portable gas stoves, kettles, mosquito repellent, torches, chlorine and EM mudballs to neutralise contaminated water have also been listed.
Thanks to emergency funding, HelpAge and its partners can now deliver these items to 2,500 households.
We are also coordinating a medical mission in all the three provinces to be delivered by Mercy Malaysia.
Concerns about the cost of recovery
A more detailed assessment of what older people need as Thailand recovers from this disaster will follow. The findings will be given to government and civil society agencies.
Older people are already worried about the cost of recovery. Their homes will need to be cleaned and repaired. Many will have to try and find work to earn an income, and get medicines for their health.
How you can help
If you would like to support and further our work in Thailand you can donate to our Thailand flood appeal launched with our sister organisation Age UK.
Thank you very much.