Period covered: 1 January to 30 April 2006
Appeal target for 2006-2007: revised from CHF 6.6 million to CHF 4.2 million (USD 3.5 million or EUR 2.7 million)
Appeal coverage: 27%
Outstanding needs: CHF 3.1 million (USD 2.6 million or EUR 2 million)
Related Appeals: East Asia Appeal 2006-2007 (MAA54001)
The programming approach adopted by the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) has continued to evolve to reflect the complex implications of economic development on China's vulnerable. While the national society provides regular assistance to the disadvantaged with its traditional disaster relief and health activities, it is also actively developing a number of programmes with the Federation delegation and partner national societies, which address some of the country's greatest needs including water and sanitation, community-based disaster preparedness, HIV/AIDS and avian influenza.
This programme update outlines the progress that has been made in the first four months of the year in the RCSC programmes supported by the Federation. Details of changes that made to the programme plans and budgets as a result of operational and funding developments are also included in this update. Of the changes made to the original plans within this appeal, the most significant was in the area of disaster management, where planned community vulnerability reduction project water and sanitation and health activities have been put on hold for this year.
The 850-900 million farmers living in China comprise close to one eighth of the world's population. China's current overall rapid economic development needs to be counter-balanced by the fact that many of these rural farmers still represent some of the world's poorest people. Currently the average annual income of urban dwellers (CHF 1,600) greatly outpaces that in the countryside which averages USD 400 (CHF 500), just barely above the internationally recognised dollar a day poverty line standard. Furthermore, recent official statistics revealed that 23.65 million people throughout the country's 148,000 poorest villages subsist on annual incomes below China's own poverty benchmark of RMB 683 (CHF 106), and over fifty percent of China's 592 poorest counties are suffering from grain shortages. This disparity in income and in influence is giving rise to increased discontent in rural areas, with some 87,000 incidents of public unrest being reported in 2005.
The chance of benefiting from the promise of wealth in the cities combined with poverty's reality has led to a migrant workforce of some 200 million (twice the population of Mexico), and these farmer-turned worker migrants represent the largest population movement in China's history. For some, the income generated in the cities comprises up to 50% of their families' income. It was noted by representatives of the Federation during household visits conducted as part of the 2005 flood relief operation, that the vast majority of the households visited reported at least one family member spending a significant part of the year away from their home and family to supplement the family's income, or to earn enough money to make up for the losses sustained due to the floods.
In addition, the rapid expansion of China's economy is contributing to an increasing degree of vulnerability from natural and industrial disasters and environmental degradation. The continuously increasing number of factories, which are symbolic of the country's economic growth, are also creating mounting problems of pollution and hard to meet demands for energy resources, such as oil and coal. China has the world's worst record of mine safety, and 6,000 deaths were reported last year, largely due to the mismanagement of these mines. At the same time, large plots of the country's limited arable farmland have been bought up to be used for factories with poor farmers rarely receiving adequate compensation and leaving pockets of traditional rural farmers lacking adequate skills or resources to enter the urban marketplace
In May, China's Xinhua news agency reported that the growing water needs accompanying the country's economic development have gone far beyond the available supply and capacity of the country's water resources. Large parts of three of the country's most important rivers, namely the Yangtze, Yellow and Huaihe rivers are becoming severely depleted or are being rendered unusable due to pollution. According to the news agency, in an article published in March, China's per capita water resources are just 31 percent of the world's average, with 400 out of the country's 660 cities lacking water and 136 reporting severe water shortages.
Many signs over the first few months of the year showed that the central government was becoming increasingly concerned at this growing wealth divide and environmental degradation. These issues were raised on many occasions at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress held in March. A number of measures were put forward to try to address the negative consequences of these developments, notably in the fields of rural health and education, and the slogan of "constructing a new socialist countryside" was adopted to guide this new policy direction.
The Impact of Natural Disasters: January-April 2006
As the nation's changing economy wields its impact, annual winter and summer natural disasters continue to take their toll on China's rural poor. According to UNDP's 2005 China Human Development Report natural disasters and diseases are important causes of poverty in China's central and western areas, as well as the country's mountainous and minority-inhabited regions. Pockets of poverty also exist in more developed rural areas plagued by natural disasters and unemployment (UNDP: 2005 China Human Development Report, p. 89). In January, some 97,000 people were evacuated in Xinjiang where winter storms left 224,800 people stranded, 6,000 sick and killed 9,234 head of livestock, whilst severe sandstorms beginning in March have affected large areas of Xinjiang and several other provinces. As of April according to official reports, tens of millions of people in different parts of the country are contending with losses related to severe floods and widespread drought resulting in the loss of crops (22.5 million hectares) and animals (some 11.55 million head of livestock). Additionally, severe drought is threatening supplies of drinking water for more than 14 million people, with the country's poorest provinces of Gansu, Hebei, Ningxia, Yunnan, Sichuan and Guangxi among the most severely affected. According to a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the drought has also ruined nearly two thirds of the winter wheat in the worst-hit areas.
Incidences of avian influenza (H5N1) in birds and in humans continued to dominate public attention with 19 human cases and 12 deaths having been reported in the country to date. The Chinese government has taken an increasingly active role in avian influenza prevention and preparedness, beginning in 2006 with the hosting of the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza in Beijing during the second week of January. As the world becomes more aware of the threats posed by a potential pandemic, it is hoped that this raised awareness and level of preparedness will also carry over into contributing towards the prevention of other infectious diseases which again prey on the vulnerability of the rural poor. Citing findings of a World Bank survey, the 2005 UNDP Human Development Report noted that those people in the poorest quartile in the rural areas suffered incidences of chronic diseases almost three times the national average, while at the same time according China's ministry of health, 22 per cent of indigent Chinese attributed illness and injury as the causes driving them into poverty.
Role for the Red Cross Society of China
The statistics surrounding China are daunting and, because of the large numbers, on some level difficult to truly conceptualize. Given the size and diversity of the population, there is no comprehensive solution that an organization like the RCSC can take to addressing all of the multiple challenges outlined above. Rather, the solution to these large challenges lies more in developing a carefully selected range of programmes that will help the country's most vulnerable into overcome these enormous threats. The RCSC adopted the slogan "every yuan counts" for its 2004 floods operation, and this slogan, by extension, can also be applied to every staff member and volunteer. An approach based on the important role everyone has to play in decreasing vulnerability is increasingly being applied to RCSC programming, such as the various rural community based programmes and the HIV/AIDS programmes. In these, students, people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and poor rural communities who are routinely confronted with natural disasters are working with the RCSC to improve their own lives and the lives of those people around them. Many of the respective programme facilitators at local level are themselves new to this way of working and must first go through a challenging process with support from experienced staff from the RCSC and the Federation, of working through their own fears and preconceptions so that they can develop the necessary skills and knowledge to help others. The Federation's support to the RCSC focuses on a few key areas within the society's five-year plan adopted by the Society at its national convention held in late 2004. These areas are health (HIV/AIDS and avian influenza), disaster management, and organizational development. The Federation supported programmes are based on the experience that has been built up in working with the RCSC in recent years. They also takes into account the programmes that are being implemented bilaterally by RCSC's partners in the Movement, with whom the Federation's regional delegation cooperates closely.
For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:
- Red Cross Society of China: Mr. Wang Xiaohua (director of external relations department); email: email@example.com; phone: +86.10.64048366, fax +86.10.64029928.
- Federation regional delegation in China: Mr. Alistair Henley (head of East Asia regional delegation); firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: +86.10.65327162, fax: +86.10.65327166.
- Federation Secretariat in Geneva: Ms. Ewa Eriksson (regional officer, Asia Pacific department); email: email@example.com; phone: +41227304252; fax: +41.22.7330395.
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