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.”