Cyclone Idai made landfall last Thursday and has swept through Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, killing hundreds of people and affecting an estimated 2.6 million people. More than 400,000 have lost their homes, and as heavy rainfall continues, the UN predicts one of the worst weather-related disasters on record.
HelpAge International and its network members are working with partners and agencies on the ground to ensure that older people are included in the humanitarian response.
Older people, particularly those living alone and those with disabilities, are often overlooked or left behind in emergencies. Their needs and concerns must be identified and addressed. HelpAge and its partners are deploying multidisciplinary outreach teams including health and social workers to support those most at risk.
Andrew Collodel, HelpAge’s Head of Humanitarian Programs, said: “Time is critical and lives are in danger. Many older women and men are sleeping rough in makeshift shelters, often without water, food, and medication that is crucial for their health.
“We need to provide immediate life-saving support to those most at risk, but we also need to work with other agencies and donors to ensure that older people are not ignored, that their voices are heard, and their needs and rights are recognized both in the immediate response and the longer-term support to rebuild lives and communities.”
The government has declared a state of emergency, with more rain expected. The city of Beira is short of clean water, food, medical care, and communication; several villages have been cut off by a tidal surge. HelpAge’s country team and partners are reaching out to older people in the affected communities to assess and meet their urgent needs.
Ferdinando Almeida, HelpAge’s Program Coordinator in Mozambique, said: “This is the most devastating natural disaster the region has experienced in living memory. Older people and their families are among the most affected by the floods. We desperately need help to alleviate the suffering of the people most at risk.”
Thousands of people are homeless, fields have been destroyed, and livestock washed away. HelpAge has received funding for MANEPO, our network member in Malawi, to assess the needs of older people and provide clean water and shelter in the worst affected areas.
Andrew Kavala, executive director of MANEPO, said: “The intensity and severity of the cyclone and subsequent floods have hit older people especially hard. Many have died and hundreds have lost their homes. We need all the help we can get to reach the survivors, and to help them rebuild their lives.”
HelpAge is working with our network and partners to undertake a rapid needs assessment and send outreach teams to respond to urgent needs.