Typhoon Haiyan, three months on: Aid reaches 50,000 people


By Attila Kulcsar

HelpAge International and partners in the Philippines have helped almost 50,000 people in the three months since Typhoon Haiyan hit on 7 November 2013. As well as providing direct help to older people, we have been raising awareness of the needs of people over 60 who are routinely neglected in emergency responses.

Older women receive food packages in the Philippines. Older people in the Philippines have received much-needed food aid. (c) Jos Roldan Yambao/HelpAge International

Help for older people, by older people

One of the great successes of the relief effort has been the involvement of older volunteers who have provided help to older people affected by the disaster. They have been giving psycho-social support to those who were traumatised.

The Confederation of Older Persons' Associations of the Philippines (COPAP) has transported older volunteers from Manila to devastated areas to help. Older people are leading the way, ensuring services better cater for the needs and vulnerabilities of older people, such as nutrition and health.

"So much positive energy"

Salve Basiano. Salve Basiano. (c) Joselito dela Cruz/HelpAge International Speaking of the efforts of the older volunteers, Salve Basiano, former president of COPAP, and herself a volunteer, said:

"There has been so much positive energy from both our volunteers and the people we are assisting.

"Despite suffering physically, spiritually and emotionally from the calamity, many have been able to accept everything that has happened to them.

"Our work has been very fulfilling as people have opened up to us about their experiences."

Older people disproportionately affected

Almost 40% of people killed by Typhoon Haiyan were over the age of 60 - despite the fact that this age group makes up only 8% of the total population in the worst affected areas.

As with previous natural disasters, older people have clearly been disproportionately affected.

Focusing on forgotten communities

HelpAge has focused on areas ignored by other agencies, such as the indigenous mountain community of Mahawan. We delivered much-needed food aid to this poor community whose fragile housing was particularly vulnerable to the typhoon's destructive impact.

Together with our partner, Coalition of Services for the Elderly (COSE), we were able to deliver assistance in the first few weeks after the typhoon, when food was a very urgent need and local markets were out of action.

We also delivered shelter kits from the UK government's Department for International Development (DFID) and vouchers for home repairs. Once the markets bounced back, we provided cash assistance so people could buy basic essentials.

Alongside relief distributions, we have been strongly advocating for humanitarian agencies to protect and include older people. This work has been carried out through UN thematic cluster groups, the Admer Partnership Group, the Philippines International NGO network (PINGON) and the Age and Disability Taskforce (ADTF) consortium.

HelpAge has also provided training to the military and police through a programme organised by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines and UNHCR. We plan to extend this to PINGON.

Helping older farmers

We have also helped older farmers whose crops were ruined. One of the typhoon's biggest impacts was on the country's coconut industry. Over 15 million trees were destroyed, wiping out the livelihoods of thousands of farmers.

Coconut trees take eight years to grow so HelpAge is working to help older farmers find alternative livelihoods , giving them rice seeds and fertiliser to provide an intermediary crop.

Godfred Paul, HelpAge's Senior Regional Programme Manager in East Asia Pacific said:

"We are already working on plans to improve livelihoods. This includes training local staff and older people on a diverse range of agriculture, livestock and poultry farming skills. We are also consulting with older people to identify appropriate and sustainable activities."

How you can help

Your donation can help us support more older people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

> Donate from the UK (via our partner Age International).

> Donate from the USA (via our partner HelpAge USA).

> Donate from elsewhere.

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