HelpAge International: "Thousands of vulnerable older people at risk as Thailand's flood crisis forces evacuation of Bangkok"

27 October 2011

As Thailand starts a three day public holiday (27 - 30 October) across Bangkok and other flood-affected regions, HelpAge International is increasingly anxious not enough is being done to deliver care for thousands of older, vulnerable people who are at risk from worsening floods.

Flood water has now shut down commercial flights at Bangkok's domestic airport, currently home to 4,000 people living in the airports converted terminal. The water is still rising and has affected a building containing the government's emergency Flood Relief Operations Center.

Worst floods in 50 years

Since July, the worst floods in five decades have devastated a third of Thailand's provinces. HelpAge International, the only international organisation working to meet the needs of older people in humanitarian disasters, has warned that unless more is done, thousands of older people will be at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods, with no idea when life will return to normal.

Godfred Paul, Senior Programme Manager, HelpAge International in East Asia and Pacific said:
"We are working with local partners on the ground to deliver essential food and water because older people's most urgent needs are not currently being met.

"We are also working with HelpAge partner, the Foundation for Older Persons' Development, to carry out assessments in Ayuthaya and Pathum Thani, particularly in communities hit by landslides where we plan to support rebuilding of houses. We are sharing information on the specific needs of older people during emergencies with partners responding to the floods."

Millions of lives disrupted

The floods have killed at least 373 people since July and disrupted the lives of nearly 9.5 million, with more than 113,000 in shelters and 720,000 seeking medical attention. 62 of the country's 76 provinces have so far been affected with homes and property devastation estimated to be running into the millions.

Thailand has the second oldest population in Southeast Asia, with people over 60 accounting for over 10% of the population. Projections point towards people over 60 exceeding children under 15 in just ten years.

Richard Blewitt, CEO, HelpAge International said:

"In an emergency, older people's lives are affected by many factors. These include inaccessible food distribution points, rations that are too heavy to carry or too difficult to digest and a tendency to share their rations with family members. Also, relief agencies often fail to recognise the needs of older people, even when they are caring for children.

In these situations, minor conditions can quickly become major handicaps. Older people are often less able or willing to flee quickly. Even common conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, deteriorate rapidly without adequate assessment and medication."

Delivering food and water

The national government and the provincial government agencies are working round the clock to assist people in need, providing relief materials to the affected population. In addition, civil society groups are delivering food and water on a daily basis and raising funds locally. The local response is one of the biggest seen in recent times.

Godfred Paul said: "We are already working hard to reach vulnerable older people, but there is definitely more to be done, especially as relief assistance and aid recovery could take up to six weeks for the catastrophic flood waters to recede."

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  • For more information please contact: Rachel Trayner, rtrayner@helpage.org, 0207 148 7623, +447738982122 (HelpAge International Media).
  • HelpAge International is a global network of organisations helping older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination and overcome poverty, so that they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives - www.helpage.org