India

Six months on, Tsunami-hit elders are holding families together

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Six months to the day killer waves devastated the lives of coastal people in southern India, voluntary HelpAge India visited the homes of many older people who it is helping to rebuild their lives. It found that elders, although more vulnerable during disasters, are also more resilient by virtue of their experience of many calamities.

"HelpAge is concentrating on three core areas - enhanced social protection for older people, sustaining a livelihood in old age, and disaster preparedness and response," said Mr. Mathew Cherian, its chief executive. In these six months, After the immediate response, HelpAge has distributed 75 boats and 66 nets, set up various income generation projects, desalinated 92 acres of farm land, formed 153 Self Help Groups, administered medical care to nearly 15,000 people, repaired houses, given trauma counselling, and is actively campaigning for social protection.

It is also trying to highlight the contributions older people are making in the reconstruction effort. In several villages older people have kept the families together.

Now, more than ever, they are playing a central role in caring for children whose parents are working away from home or who have died.

They are working in the fields, have gone back to the sea, and are helping process catch.

Older women have taken a lead and are actively contributing by working in the fields. Older women's self-help groups supported by HelpAge have begun to show savings.

HelpAge was delivering aid within 24 hours of the tsunami hitting to anyone who needed help. To specifically assist older people in receiving aid, special distributions were set up tailored to their needs.