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Older people need help too after Haiyan, HelpAge says

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 4 Dec 2013 01:07 PM
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Elderly people wait in line behind a soldier to board a military plane leaving Tacloban airport in central Philippines, four days after Typhoon Haiyan swept through the area. Photo November 12, 2013, REUTERS/Bobby Yip
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BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Aid agencies must not neglect the needs of more than 1 million older people in the central Philippines who have been affected by typhoon Haiyan, HelpAge International said.

It expressed concern that a UN response plan to the typhoon did not take this group into account. 

Haiyan, one of the strongest storms on record to make landfall, hit the Philippines on Nov. 8, killing over 5,600 and affecting more than 14 million people. A month on, some 4 million people remain displaced. 

Government figures show that about 8 percent of the population in the three most affected regions are over the age of 50 - about 1.15 million people,  HelpAge said. 

"We would like to see the U.N. Typhoon Haiyan Action Plan recognise the specific vulnerabilities and needs of older people,” said Andrew Collodel, HelpAge’s emergency coordinator in the Philippines. “While it is to be commended that agencies are calling for child-friendly and women-friendly spaces, we would like to see this extended to vulnerable older people,” he added. 

The latest U.N. report on the disaster mentioned only children and pregnant and lactating women as needing screening and treatment for malnutrition.

Groups like HelpAge say the needs of older people are often given lower priority in official responses to emergencies. 

HelpAge’s latest study on humanitarian financing analysed 2,803 out of 3,048 project proposals submitted in 2012 for 20 appeals under the U.N. Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP), which seeks funding for the worst humanitarian crises. 

Only 60 projects - 2.1 percent - included at least one activity targeting older people and half received funding ($59.8 million or 1 percent out of $5.8 billion), it found.

This was still better than in 2011, when a similar report found just 0.78 percent of projects submitted to the 2010 and 2011 CAPs included at least one activity targeting older people and only 0.3 percent were funded. 


“Food, shelter, recovery of livelihoods and restoration of basic services remain top priorities for the humanitarian community,” the latest UN Report said, adding that major needs persisted in all sectors. 

Small-scale farmers require immediate support for the current planting season ending in January while subsistence fishermen need to repair or replace boats and fishing gear, it said. 

“Due to the slow removal of debris and open defecation, some water sources have already tested positive for faecal coliform, and (water and sanitation) partners warn of increased risks of disease outbreaks,” it added. 

HelpAge and its partners say all these programmes also need to be age-friendly. 

“Including older people’s needs in the design and allocation of shelter for example would mean a space that is well-lit, has easy access to emergency exits, and where necessary, would ensure older people are supported to construct temporary shelters,” Collodel said. 

 Fransiskus Kupang, executive director of the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), a HelpAge partner in the Philippines, said the programmes should be designed with input from older people. 

“When designing programmes, sometimes it is easy to forget that not everybody is as able-bodied as we are,” he told Thomson Reuters Foundation via e-mail. 

“We have met older people who could not come to some of the centralised relief distribution sites because they lived three kilometres away and could not walk through the muddy roads strewn with debris. They also cannot stand for long hours in a distribution queue,” he said. 

“They do not usually have important documents, such as identification cards. They have very different psychosocial needs, as the loss of their loved ones and their property is compounded by decades of memories and emotional attachment,” he added. 


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