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Immediate Needs Addressed as Earthquake Relief Efforts Continue in China

Ginny McCabe | ReligionToday.com Contributor | Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Immediate Needs Addressed as Earthquake Relief Efforts Continue in China

Immediate Needs Addressed as Earthquake Relief Efforts Continue in China

Photo: A damaged house in Lushan County, Ya'an City. After the 7.0 magnitude quake hit Ya'an City of Sichuan Province in southwest China, World Vision sent an assessment team to the disaster zone to survey victims' needs and begin responding (Merry Zou, World Vision)

A massive, 7.0-magnitude earthquake, as gauged by China Earthquake Networks Center, struck China’s Sichuan Province on Saturday, April 20, and has reportedly left nearly 200 dead, about tens of thousands more injured and an estimated 245,000 forced to flee their homes. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at 6.6.

Official reports indicate that nearly 1.5 million people have been affected, with many homeless in the mountainous Lushan county region close to the city of Ya'an, nearly five years after a devastating quake hit the same region, killing more than 70,000 people.

The Sichuan Province is one of China’s most populous provinces, with a strong agricultural sector. The epicenter is in a mountainous region (Longmen), north of Lushan. The affected communities are a mix of urban/peri-urban communities in the flood plains and more sparsely populated communities in mountainous areas.

According to a report from the United Nations, at the epicenter, in Longmen Township of Lushan County, 99 percent of the homes collapsed. Hundreds of aftershocks have continued to shake the area with several of them being above a magnitude of 5. Although this quake has left a smaller death toll, there are still large numbers of seriously affected people including children. Tent villages have sprung up and countless numbers of families have lost everything.

Small rural communities and mountainous villages are among the hardest-hit areas and are harder to reach, even for the Chinese army. Some places have only been accessible by foot. Many people spent the first and second nights sleeping either in tents or outside. Soldiers immediately headed into the inflicted areas, while governmental officials and relief aid workers set up emergency response centers. Food, water, shelter and hygiene were among the most immediate concerns.

On Sunday, reports indicated that authorities, military workers and rescuers continued to enter the remote, worst-hit areas, which had landslides, collapsed buildings, damaged bridges and obstructed roadways as well as disrupted communications.

The Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) relief response team distributed food, drinking water, tents, quilts and rain gear to those affected. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reported that they continue work closely and coordinate their efforts with the RCSC.

Pia MacRae, county director for Save the Children in China, said in terms of their response to the earthquake, as in other disaster response situations, they look to complement the efforts of the government, identifying where they can bring specific support to the challenges children face following the emergency.

“This can range from distribution of materials, but with a particular child focus (for instance, ensuring that children having to live outside have warm coats or rain coats), to providing safe places for children to play and talk about their experiences, as well as supporting the local authorities as they work to get children back to school,” said MacRae.

Save the Children’s staff on the ground in China has talked to some of the children impacted. They said they’ve found the experience to be very frightening.

“One little boy told us about running from the house with his grandmother, who is his main caregiver (his father works in a city, many miles away). They watched the house collapse and then had to spend the night together outside, without a tent. He wanted life to get back to normal,” said MacRae.

In terms of how donations are used, a few examples cited include: $15 (US) can provide a child with a school kit (uniform, school bag, socks, shoes and school material and $30 (US) can provide initial relief items to help the worst-affected families. This includes towels, raincoats, soaps, toilet paper and sanitary napkins.

“We are witnessing mass devastation, homes flattened, children homeless and livelihoods wiped away,” said Meimei Leung, head of World Vision's emergency response team in China. “People are huddled in tents along the roadside and near the stadium.”

World Vision is distributing much-needed relief supplies to the thousands of people left homeless after the deadly quake rocked the region. The team plans to provide hygiene kits to some 3,900 of the worst affected survivors and assess the physical, psychosocial and education needs of children. World Vision is collaborating with government partners to further assist in the response.

“We are worried about the health and well-being of the children who are now homeless,” said Victor Kan, World Vision's national director in China. “By providing hygienic kits, we’re hoping to help families restore hygienic practices, reducing health risks.”

A team of World Vision disaster response experts are delivering the kits – containing soap, towels, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Similar to Save the Children’s efforts, World Vision will also soon open Child Friendly Spaces to address children’s emotional and psychological needs. In these centers, children are provided a safe space to play and receive psychological support, helping them establish a normal routine to recover from the distress they’ve faced.

Following the quake, Samaritan’s Purse has been working with their Christian partners on the ground, responding to the disaster by providing emergency supplies including tents, quilts, food, bottled water, medicine and clothes to families impacted by the disaster.

“Out of love and the example of Jesus, we reach out to those in need regardless of race, religion or politics. We believe it is important to make sure the people impacted by this disaster know they are loved and not forgotten during their greatest time of need,” said a Samaritan's Purse spokesperson.

Samaritan’s Purse goes into areas of the world where there is a critical need and where aid can be provided with excellence to those who are suffering and are victims of war, disease, disaster, poverty, famine and persecution. Readers can get involved or donate to Samaritan's Purse disaster relief efforts by visiting the Samaritan's Purse website at www.SamaritansPurse.org.

Photo: Most quake victims have lost their daily necessities as a result of the quake. Therefore, hygiene kits containing towels, toothbrushes, toothpastes and soap are given to them to ensure they are able to meet basic, everyday hygiene and sanitation needs. Here, Meimei Leung, the director of World Vision's emergency response team in China, met Yujie, 12, and Shan, 10, when distributing the supplies (Merry Zou, World Vision)

Ginny McCabe is an author, feature and entertainment writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. You may email her at [email protected], or visit http://www.gmwriteon.com/.

Publication date: April 24, 2013