During the event of an emergency or disaster situation older persons often face increased difficulties because they may be slower to react both mentally and physically to impending danger. This will be compounded if they live alone and have no family to assist their evacuation from what they perceive as their fortress or comfort zone.
Many countries in the Caribbean region have felt the increasing impact of Hurricanes over the past few years so in an attempt to address the vulnerability of older persons in a disaster situation the Barbados office of PAHO organized a workshop in the British Virgin Islands on July 14th & 15th 2008, entitled Elderly and Disasters. This was particularly important for Belize since it had just suffered the effects of flooding from Arthur on June 2nd, right at the beginning of the season, which took everyone by surprise but especially those people that were affected in Stann Creek and the Gales Point / Mullins River areas.
The workshop was attended by Lindy Jeffery, Executive Director of the NCA and Jenny Dunn, a member of the VOICE organization from Belize. Topics covered during the 2-day workshop were:
- The impact of disasters on the elderly and their subsequent care and rehabilitation
- The needs and challenges of providing appropriate responses during an emergency
Presentations were also made by participants having experienced disaster situations from Hurricane Ivan in Grenada and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
It was agreed that all countries of the Caribbean need to up-date and improve their National hurricane plans to include procedures for the evacuation of older people in the event of any emergency situation.
Ms. Jenny Dunn is seen with Belize’s Mary Lee Ellis, currently working as a regional specialist in Disaster Management Training with the International Federation of the Red Cross. Also in the picture is Mr. Jeff James, Regional Caribbean Director for HelpAge International, based in Jamaica.