China: Flash Floods Appeal No. 16/02 Operations Update No. 5

This Ops Update is intended for reporting on emergency appeals.
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Launched on 25 June 2002 for CHF 5,044, 000 (USD 3.34m/EUR 3.43m for 3 months for 100,000 beneficiaries.
Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) Allocated: CHF 200,000
Period covered: 25 August-November 30; Last Update: 3 September 2002

IN BRIEF

Appeal coverage: Covered
Related Appeals: 01.37/2002/East Asia regional programmes

Summary: The Red Cross Society of China, along with the authorities, was the first organization to respond to the floods and provide assistance to many of those most affected. The National Society has since been engaged in an effective response operation with strong support from the International Federation.

Operational Developments

In 2002, China was exposed to extreme natural phenomena. The flood season started earlier and lasted longer than usual. According to statistics issued in early September by China Ministry of Civil affairs, the 2002 floods have claimed 1,532 lives across China and have affected at different degrees an estimated 190 million people. One million houses were destroyed and 13.15 million ha of crops were damaged. Local governments temporarily evacuated more than 2.4 million people from several floods-prone areas. Direct economic loss of the 2002 floods amounts to approximately 68 billion yuans ( 8.2 billion US dollars). While heavy downpours have been repeatedly registered between June and September in central and southern provinces, a prolonged drought and high temperatures were affecting large areas in the North of the country. The State Fire Prevention Office reported that bush fires raging in Inner Mongolia, for more than 20 days in August, were the worst in the last 53 years. In August an earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale was felt in Sichuan. Heatwaves claiming several lives swept across the country in July and August.

At the end of August, a State of Emergency was declared by the authorities of the southern China's province of Hunan while the water levels of Dongting Lake were rising threatening as many as 10 million people in the densely populated surrounding area. Dongting Lake is the second largest fresh water lake in China and it acts as a giant overflow for the flood prone Yangze River. The emergency alert remained in force for almost two weeks during which hundreds of thousands of volunteers worked around the clock inspecting the dikes and reinforcing them with sand bags.

Of 25 regions affected by the flash floods in June, seven provinces in Central and Southeast China: Shaanxi, Sichuan, Guizhou, Guanxi, Hunan, Fujian, Jiangxi and one municipality-mega city Chongqing were categorized as having suffered the most serious losses and damages. Subsequent repeated floods have increased vulnerabilities with two additional provinces - Hubei and Yunnan - qualifying for support through the funds raised within the current appeal.

In China, the central government, through its Ministry of Civil Affairs (MoCA) takes the lead role in emergency response co-ordination, as well as in disaster preparedness strategies. The Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) role is complementary, as an auxiliary to this response.

Red Cross Red Crescent Action

Along with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the RCSC branches were the first to respond to the June flash flood and subsequent disasters by releasing emergency funds and available Disaster Preparedness (DP) stocks from both the headquarters and Disaster Preparedness centres, deploying dozens of joined Ministry of Health/Red Cross Medical teams and mobilising volunteers.

Based on the information provided by the Ministry of Civil Affairs'offices in the provinces and channelled to the national Headquarters through the provincial branches of the RCSC, ten Red Cross assessment teams were dispatched in the affected areas. Subsequently, the RCSC launched a national appeal for solidarity and support to the flood victims. At the request of the National Society, the International Federation launched on June 25, the International Emergency Appeal (16/2002). Due to the low level of emergency stocks at both headquarters and lower organizational levels and a lack of funds to pre-finance the procurement of relief items, RCSC's interventions take place when funds from national and international appeals, collection and fundraising campaigns are raised.

The National Society perceives itself therefore as an organization intervening mainly in the "prolonged" phase of an emergency and its response could be qualified as more reactive than proactive.

As the result of the International Appeal and subsequent donor response, the RCSC and the Federation delegation developed an initial Plan of Action qualifying eight provinces affected to benefit from the International Red Cross/Red Crescent assistance, which includes rice, tents, quilts and water purification powder.

An additional Plan of Action was agreed later in September to target an increased number of beneficiaries in two provinces already qualified to benefit from the Emergency Appeal but also to extend support to two other provinces in which vulnerabilities seriously increased in the meantime.

Due to the fact that the relief operation was intended to cover such a vast area1 and that many of the RC provincial branches were lacking experience in running it, the RCSC HQ invited secretaries of the branches in eight initially targeted regions (7 provinces and one municipality) for a briefing in Beijing as soon as the Appeal was launched. The briefing on RCSC Operational Rules and Procedures was provided by RCSC leadership and Relief and Finance managers. Federation representatives have been given the opportunity to inform the participants on Federation's standard operational requirements.

In the same context, 16 RCSC's Finance Officers (two from each of the eight initially targeted regions) attended in July a three day Workshop on financial management and reporting organized by the RCSC Headquarters. During the workshop, a session on Federation standard financial procedures was facilitated by a Federation representative from the regional finance unit in Kuala Lumpur. Some provincial branches and lower organizational levels (prefectures, counties, villages) encountered difficulties in running the operation due to a lack of experience implementing International Federation Emergency Appeals. The RCSC HQ issued several memos to strengthen management of relief activities, reminding branches concerned of the agreed beneficiary selection criteria, suggesting a focus on a limited number of counties per province (maximum 20) and efforts to avoid duplication.

In mid-July, the Regional Delegation in Beijing was reinforced by five delegates: two short term field delegates, and a short term Reporting delegate, a Finance delegate and a long-term Regional Information Delegate.

The arrival of the Regional Information Delegate has contributed substantially to the high media profile given to the Red Cross during the flood alert around the Dongting Lake in late August.

From August 22 to August 26, the Regional Information Delegate was based in Yueyang, a city on the Lake's shore, acting as a focal point and vital source of information for all international media. Dozens of interviews have been given daily to all international media.

At the end of October/beginning of November one Field Delegate completed her mission. The missions of three other short terms delegates were extended.

During the reporting period, all provinces but one from those targeted in the initial appeal were visited for information gathering, assessment and monitoring purposes by Federation delegates and RCSC HQ counterparts. Visits were conducted in Hunan, Jiangxi, Fujian, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region, Guizhou, Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces and in the municipality of Chongqing.

It is also noted that only a portion of regions affected by this years' floods have been covered through the current Appeal. The RCSC and its branches have however responded to the 2002 disaster in as many as 24 provinces/autonomous regions/municipalities. Bearing in mind the size of the country, frequency and intensity of disasters in 2002, the capacity of the relief division at the RCSC headquarters in Beijing staffed with four staff members only, proved to be limited.

One of the obstacles for branches in both running relief operations and everyday programmes has been a limited access to transportation following their gradual separation from the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). As a result, some of the local branches in provinces affected by 2002 floods found it extremely difficult, in some cases impossible, to access communities affected by the disaster.

In order to support the National Society in addressing some of its needs for transportation, two vehicles were procured under the current Appeal .

Objectives, activities and results

Targeting

The RCSC and the Federation have agreed on main criteria for the beneficiary selection as follows:

  • Families who have lost their crops during the floods;
  • Families who have lost their homes or have had their homes seriously damaged;
  • Elderly without family support, physically or mentally handicapped and families with very low income who have been affected by the floods.
The Red Cross branches in the provinces were advised by the headquarters that the above criteria should be strictly observed. The request was channeled down to the county level branches. However, the ultimate responsibility for identifying the most vulnerable within the communities remains with the Committee of the village2 and implies the locally appropriate vulnerability criteria.

The RCSC and the Federation remain therefore supportive of maintaining a flexible approach to beneficiary selection at the grass-root level.

Based on the ultimate input from the Committee of the villages, the RC branches in the townships (lowest organisational level in the RCSC structure) are in charge of compiling final lists of beneficiaries and reporting back to the upper organisational level which is the county level.

Though the number of beneficiary households which were surveyed by the Federation field delegates on the random sample basis has been very limited (mostly due to logistics constrains in terms of accessing remote areas), most of the households/beneficiaries visited and interviewed fit into the above criteria.

In some provinces/prefectures (Guizhou and Sichuan), the flood relief programme appeared to be confused at the grass roots level with the government aid-for-poor programme, which targets socially vulnerable but not necessarily people affected by the floods.

General principles of cooperation between the RCSC and the International Federation in relief operations

General terms of cooperation between the RCSC and the International Federation were set already in the 1991-1992 operations.

Relief

*Type of relief items, their approximate quantities (based on the estimate price) , targeted geographical areas and beneficiary rations for an Emergency relief operation are defined in one or several Plans of Action (PoA) and agreed between the RCSC and the International Federation.

*Besides the relief component(s) and its value, each Plan(s) of Action comprise also a breakdown of National Society's operational costs;

*Plan(s) of Action are revised and/or amended on the basis of the amount of funds received and newly emerged needs.

Funding

*Funds allocated for the procurement of relief items and RCSC's operational costs and raised through an International Appeal are transferred in cash from the Federation Secretariat to the account of the Red Cross Society of China headquarters;

*RCSC Accounts have been regularly audited by an international auditing company;

Logistics

*According to the RCSC Rules and Regulations for the Purchasing of commodities, both the RCSC headquarters (through its Logistics department, a so called Service department) and the provincial branches are entitled to and responsible for purchasing relief items, keeping the register of suppliers and controlling the quality of the items procured.

*RCSC Rules and Regulations are in compliance with the Public Tender Law and Public Procurement Law of the People's Republic of China but on procedural issues, they do not always fully match with the International Federation standard requirements.

*The Contract between the RCSC and the supplier generally includes transportation costs from the manufacturer to the provincial Red Cross branch.

*Red Cross branches at the Prefecture level are responsible for providing general support and co-operation while the branches at the county level are in charge of the micro-distribution.

Reporting

* The RCSC attempts to respond to the growing needs for reporting has been translated into a Disaster Preparedness and Response reporting system which consists of 13 forms exchanged between the provincial branches and the headquarters. The forms have been in use by the RCSC for many years. In the summer 2002, a software application comprising these forms was designed and installed in the computers in branches and at the headquarters. Along with initial computer literacy training all these activities were part of the RCSC computerization programme supported by the Federation. Five of the target provinces/municipalities for the current relief operation have benefited from the project.

The system is not fully functional yet and additional training for staff members in the branches and at the headquarters is needed. Reporting on the current operation has been in a sense, a test for the system. It has proved that it needs to be further upgraded thus enabling an increasing level of analytical data processing versus the simple collection of facts. The accuracy, the quality and the consistency of the RCSC reports do not meet yet donors reporting requirements.

* The existing reporting system within the National Society does not envisage progress or interim reports but only a final report, upon the completion of the operation at the provincial level which is reported to the headquarters through a Form 9 which stands for A consolidated distribution report.

* In order to improve the overall understanding of the reporting and enhance the skills of RCSC in this operational area, the Federation Delegation proposed to carry out a pilot training workshop for selected RCSC English speaking staff-members. The workshop could be further adapted and replicated in Mandarin for other staff-members both at the headquarters and in the branches.

Conclusion

* The RCSC is fully in charge of and therefore responsible for all operational issues. The Federation Delegation's involvement is limited in scope, activities and capacities.

Current Appeal

Relief

Relief objectives from the current Appeal were originally framed into four (4) Plans of Action. Information from the Provincial Branches and from field visits, indicated that the priority was for additional food and quilts. Therefore with funds that have been made available by donors in the meantime, a new Plan of Action (PoA 5) was designed later in September and is based on an increased need for rice and quilts in two provinces already targeted in the Appeal and on the newly emerged need for these items in two additional provinces. These four provinces have suffered from repeated floods in July and August. Subsequently, the Delegation requested a modification to the budget.

RCSC Relief department has called upon provincial branches to ensure at the largest possible extend the co-ordination of the distributions of relief supplies from various sources (national and local donations, Hong Kong branch support, MoCA and/or other government institutions) but still in full compliance with donors requirements thus minimising the possibility of gaps and/or duplications and maximising the impact of the relief.

Field reports indicate that this recommendation from the RCSC headquarters was followed with varied success in the field.

For further details please contact:

  • The Red Cross Society of China Beijing ; Phone 86 10 651 24 47; Fax 86 10 651 24 169; email hq@chineseredcross.org.ac.cn
  • Richard Grove-Hills, Head of Regional Delegation, Beijing; Phone 8610 65 327 162/3/4/5; Fax 8610 65327 166.
  • Aurelia Balpe, Phone :4122 730 4352; Fax: 4122 733 03 95; email: balpe@ifrc.org
All International Federation Operations seek to adhere to the Code of Conduct and are committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (SPHERE Project) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. This operation seeks to administer to the immediate requirements of the victims of this disaster. Subsequent operations to promote sustainable development or longer-term capacity building will require additional support, and these programmes are outlined on the Federation's website.

For further information concerning Federation operations in this or other countries, please access the Federation website at http://www.ifrc.org.

John Horekens
Director
External Relations Division

Simon Missiri
Head
Asia and Pacific Department

(pdf* format - 114 KB)

Footnotes:

1 Please note that the provinces/autonomous regions and/municipalities in China have the size/population of medium to big Europeean countries.

2 The village committee is basically the local authority at the grass-root level. Members are elected and not appointed.