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Surviving disaster at 90-years-old: Joao’s story

90-year-old former fisherman Joao was one of the many older people who we were able to help in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in March 2019.

Joao had no warning before the deadly storm hit Mozambique last year, and was at home with his wife and family. The heavy rains and strong winds led to flash flooding, hundreds of deaths and destroyed homes and crops.

“We were in the house, we were afraid. The house was shaking and about to fall. We left the house until it was over. The house was totally destroyed.”

Joao told us how frightened he’d felt when he'd realised his home and belongings had been destroyed, and how worried he was for his family. Mozambique is a coastal country which is at particularly high risk from the impact of climate change, and the last few decades have seen a significant rise in the number of droughts, floods and cyclones in the area. Cylone Idai was one of the worst storms to ever hit the area. Joao said that after the disaster, a windy day was enough to make him fear another cyclone might be on its way.

Fortunately, our partners HelpAge Mozambique were able to respond quickly to the disaster and find out what older people affected most needed. Joao was provided with survival essentials to replace what he had lost in the disaster such as food, cooking pans, plates and cups, a mosquito net and blanket, and soap for washing.

Joao’s wife washing up their pans

Joao said that if it hadn't been for Age International and HelpAge, he would have been helpless. He has health problems and can’t walk far without getting weak and tired, and his wife has back problems. He used to work long days as a fisherman, and his wife grew crops, but doctors advised them not to do any work or labour. He said:

“Without your support, I would not have done anything. I would just sit and wait. What could I do?”

Following the cyclone, Joao and his family sought to rebuild their home. HelpAge Mozambique was able to provide a tarpaulin for the roof and his son helped him construct it.

Joao’s home being rebuilt

The DEC appeal for Cyclone Idai raised £43 million, enabling Age International through its delivery partners to provide vital support to thousands of older people like Joao, from food and clean water to healthcare checks and emotional support, seeds for regrowing crops and materials for rebuilding.

Learn more

Read our impact report for more stories of how we helped older people this year. 

Our impact: Improving the lives of older people

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Last updated: Dec 16 2020

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