China: Earthquake reconstruction efforts continue

By Etsuko Sugiyama, Japanese Red Cross Society, Sichuan

Red Cross Red Crescent reconstruction projects are continuing across China's Sichuan province, which was devastated by an earthquake in May 2008.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is supporting permanent shelter reconstruction in the worst hit areas, as well as the reconstruction of schools and health service facilities in partnership with the Red Cross Society of China and the Japanese Red Cross Society.

Mianzhu, a city in Sichuan, is one of many settlements to be hit hard by the earthquake. About 80 per cent of the houses collapsed and scores of people lost their lives.

Transitional shelters

The affected families in urban areas live in temporary prefabricated houses constructed by the government. However, many of those in rural areas, such as in Mianzhu, still live in tents or self-built transitional shelters reinforced with plastic sheets and waste material collected from collapsed buildings.

As many residents in rural areas were living in poverty even before the earthquake struck and cannot afford to rebuild their homes, the Japanese Red Cross Society is to support the reconstruction of 4,728 houses in Mianzhu through the International Federation.

Since the new school year started in September, classes have been progressing well. A number of earthquake-damaged schools have been demolished to make way for new buildings, and many students are now based in temporary prefabricated school buildings or borrowed barns at nearby farms.

Reconstruction projects

Mr. Isaka Kazutaka, the Japanese Red Cross' representative for reconstruction projects, has visited the site of the Liang Cun elementary and junior high school in Gansu Province.

"Liang Cun elementary school and junior high school were destroyed by the earthquake, except for the outdoor lavatories," said Isaka. "Teachers and students collected desks and chairs out of classrooms that were destroyed by the tremor and used them at the prefabricated classrooms," he added.

"Though the school buildings have collapsed, no one was hurt since a school-wide event was being held at the playground when the earthquake struck," said Mr. Zhang Junfeng, the school principal at Liang Cun.

The Japanese Red Cross Society is planning to support the reconstruction of 12 elementary schools and junior high schools, as well as the reconstruction of 29 hospitals and 28 clinics in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi.

Damaged hospitals and clinics are being demolished for fresh reconstruction into safer facilities. At present, health services are provided at hospitals that were not damaged and temporary prefabricated facilities, as well as in private houses for hospitalized patients.