Why is the situation so bad?
An older woman carries her possessions following the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan.
‘There are no structures standing. It was like a tsunami… I don’t know how to describe what I saw. It’s horrific.’ – Mar Roxas, The Interior Secretary of the government of Philippines
The super typhoon, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), hit the Philippines on Friday – causing widespread devastation.
Haiyan is the largest storm to ever hit land and the Philippines is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. As a result, impact was always going to be significant.
The typhoon devastated the Philippine archipelago, flattening homes and cutting off roads and power. Officials say that there may be 10,000 dead in the Leyte island capital of Tacloban alone and the overall death toll could be many thousands more.
Some of the areas hit by the typhoon are also the same places that were struck by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake two weeks ago – making the damage even more severe.
Reports from the ground have likened the scene to the 2004 Asian tsunami in terms of scale and destruction. Godfred Paul, from our overseas partner, HelpAge, said: ‘Coastal communities and those near rivers have been flooded and swept away. Houses have been destroyed; fruit trees uprooted; people left with nothing.’
Older people can’t run
Older women and men are the ones least able to flee quickly; and the ones most likely to need support. They often cannot run; they cannot carry possessions – such as blankets and clothes to keep themselves warm and dry.
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.
During Hurricane Katrina 49% of those killed were over 75 and in the Great Eastern Japanese Earthquake 64% of deaths were of people over 60.
‘We need to act now’ – Director’s personal plea
Following the disaster, Chris Roles, Director of Age International, has issued a personal plea to the UK public. He said: “At a time like this, older people are particularly vulnerable. We need to act now.”
Since Saturday, we have been working with our overseas implementing partners HelpAge International and The Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), to:
– Distribute age-friendly food packages
– Provide shelter
– Distribute emergency equipment like mosquito nets and buckets
Age International are calling on the UK public to donate to support their relief effort – and help them reach more vulnerable older people before it’s too late.