Age International and HelpAge International Philippines Response - Typhoon Haiyan

HelpAge International is already on the ground with its local partner, the Coalition of Services of the Elderly COSE, to support older people affected by the trail of devastation across the Philippines. The emergency relief work is funded by HelpAge's UK partner, Age International, which is also a member of the Age UK network.

Mobility challenges and lack of assistance from families and communities in time of crisis mean older people are often disproportionately accounted for in the number of people killed. When older people do decide to flee, they face risks including the possibility of being separated from family and friends, and ending up in evacuation centres in near-complete isolation. We estimate that around 1.3 million people over the age of 50 could be affected. Applying the latest population figures for the over 50 age group, HelpAge estimates that:

  • Of the 618,000 people displaced, at least 85,000 are over 50.
  • An estimated 436,000 people are in evacuation shelters, suggesting about 60,000 are over 50.
  • Of the 182,000 outside evacuation shelters, 25,000 are over 50.

Frances Stevenson, Head of Emergencies at HelpAge International:

"Our experience in previous emergencies shows that disasters like this have a disproportionate impact on older people. They are more likely to be among the casualties and less able to get access to emergency assistance. In the aftermath of the typhoon, older people will need assistance for specific age-related needs such as treatment for chronic diseases. They will also need to be able to access the general assistance and services provided by the government and by humanitarian agencies."

HelpAge International is working with COSE to dispatch staff to affected areas. We are urgently assessing the impact of Typhoon Haiyan to develop a relief plan and ascertain older people's most urgent needs. The principal needs are food, water, medicine and shelter. Millions of people are without food and clean water and there has been reported looting in Tacloban City due to hunger. Medicine is also a top priority, particularly as the number of people injured is quickly rising.

HelpAge and COSE emergencies teams report that affected areas in central Philippines have been without electricity for some time. COSE staff have been deployed from Manila and Davao offices to affected areas, but with communication and transportation cut off they face huge challenges.

Speaking in Manila Fransiskus Kupang, Executive Director of our joint partner, the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), said:

"Although some international NGOs have reached Tacloban city, we are concerned that there are some areas where are no international agencies at all. We are trying to access regions on other islands – including Negros Occidental which have also been devastated. All the homes here have been flattened, but there is no assistance for people here except from the local government units."


Notes to Editors

1. Interview requests:

The following are available for interview – please contact Attila Kulcsar (

  • Frances Stevenson of HelpAge International is in London.
  • Fransiskus Kupang, Executive Director of the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE) is in Manila.
  • Chris Roles, Director of Age International is in London.

2. HelpAge in the Philippines:

HelpAge International has been working in the Philippines for more than 27 years in partnership with 12 local organisations, including COSE, Coalition of Services of the Elderly, with whom we have worked since their establishment in 1989. COSE bases its principles on the Philippines' culture of respecting older people to form community based programmes to address important issues within community such as livelihoods, health and sanitation. Our partnership over the last two decades has focused on providing direct services for poor older people and their families in different regions and in recent years HelpAge and COSE have actively advocating for social protection of older people through national advocacy, two key results include: the acceptance and passing of the Expanded Senior Citizen Act 2010 and the approval of the national social pensions scheme.

3. Age International:

Age International is the only UK charity focusing on older people in developing countries. It is a charitable subsidiary of Age UK and a member of the HelpAge global network. By working with Age UK, Age International provides funding to HelpAge to enable them to assist nearly one million older people in more than 40 low- and middle income countries. Age International also undertakes awareness-raising, campaigning, influencing and advocacy activity in the UK to ensure that older people's needs are met in long-term development programmes and short term emergency relief.

4. Coalition of Services of the Elderly:

COSE keeps older people at the forefront of community activities and ensures their inclusion in community matters and programmes throughout establishment of older people organisations and has built a strong network of organisations in Metro Manila and other regions. COSE alongside HelpAge have undertaken emergency preparedness and response activities across the Philippines on a number of previous occasions, including 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 using their network of OPOs to undertake rapid assessments and deployment of relief items to the most affected older persons. Activities in response to previous typhoons Ondoy (Ketsana), Pepeng (Parma) and Santi (Mirinae) in 2009, Megi, 2010, Nesat in 2011, and Bopha in 2012 have included provision of essential relief items - food and non-food-items, community based livelihood support, shelter, access to water, psychosocial activities and disaster risk management (DRM) orientations and mapping. In 2013, HelpAge and COSE provided emergency relief to 1,358 older persons and over 8,000 family members in 11 barangays of Mindanao province affected by typhoon Bopha. Due to the frequency of natural disasters HelpAge and COSE are implementing a DRR programme in Mindanao with funding from the German Foreign Ministry and in the areas where programme activities have started, the causalities reported were much less, due to their preparedness actions, as a result of training provided to date.

5. HelpAge's Emergency Response programme:

COSE and HelpAge's engagement in the cluster system and work through OPOs, Disaster Recovery and Relief (DRR) committees, community leaders and volunteers has meant that we are ready to mobilize a team to form a rapid response in providing immediate support to 17,481 older people and their family members (approx. 87,405) in seven municipalities. COSE are undertaking a rapid needs assessment with HelpAge's support.

Advocacy and mainstreaming: We will also advocate and raise the profile of older people within the international community through various cluster meetings (in particular: Food and NFI, Livelihood and Shelter) to ensure collaborative work and inclusion of older people in other agency's programmes in the Philippines and share findings and needs within the ASEAN network. HelpAge will plan a second phase longer term response (after the above activities have been completed) looking at protection, livelihoods, and disaster preparedness and Disaster Risk Reduction, to ensure greater resilience against future natural disasters in target areas.

HelpAge International helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives.

Contact Attila Kulcsar at HelpAge International's office in London at email (or tel: +44 (0) 20 7148 7623; mobile: +44 (0) 7713 567624).

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