Wheelchairs sent to Philippines After Typhoon Disaster

FOR the millions suffering in the Philippines, any help is a great help. But a Backwell charity is lending a hand in a very specific way – by sending 250 wheelchairs to the devastated country.

Earlier this month Typhoon Haiyan, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda, battered the islands with winds of up to 150mph and sustained, torrential rain.

At least 4,000 people are known to have been killed, making it the second deadliest typhoon to hit the country in its history.

According to UN officials, about 11 million people have been affected and many have been left homeless.

Motivation, which was founded in 1991, has launched a new emergency response wheelchair to help save lives when disaster strikes.

It is specially designed for short- term use in a variety of crisis and emergency situations, from natural disasters to crisis refugee camps, where there is a desperate need for more appropriate wheelchairs.

Motivation hopes that aid agencies will be able to deploy the chair in situations like typhoon Haiyan, where the severely injured and disabled are at the highest risk.

The charity has provided 200 of the new design to Handicap International and 50 to Johanniter International Assistance.

Last night, it received the good news that Johanniter will be deploying its wheelchairs on Saturday with a view to getting them on the ground to the people who need them as soon as possible after that.

Handicap International is still deciding where and when it might put the chairs to use.

Co-founder of Motivation, David Constantine MBE, said: “Disabled people can be the most vulnerable in a disaster and are often deprived of rescue and evacuation services.

“Losing family members or carers, losing assistance devices such as wheelchairs and a lack of healthcare can be devastating.

“Wheelchairs distributed in the aftermath of natural disasters are often second-hand hospital chairs, which rarely meet international standards and frequently arrive too late to make a difference.”

In Haiti, an estimated 200,000 people were left disabled following the earthquake in 2010.

Mr Constantine added: “The wrong chair – or no chair at all – can leave injured victims unable to access basic relief services like shelter, food and water.

“And, for the long-term disabled, a conflict or disaster can be fatal.”

Mr Constantine was just 21 when, as a student travelling around Australia, he suffered a broken neck in a diving accident which left him paralysed.

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Maurice Smith