China: Floods Emergency Appeal no. MDRCN001

Originally published


The International Federation's mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. It is the world's largest humanitarian organization and its millions of volunteers are active in over 185 countries.
In Brief



The 2006 flood and typhoon season is rapidly emerging as one of the most serious in recent years, resulting already in an economic loss of close to USD 10 billion. Since May to late July, five consecutive typhoons and tropical storms have swept through China. Damages wrought have contributed to overall flood-related disaster statistics across the country: from 1 January to 26 June, number of deaths are close to 1,500, with almost 254 million people affected, 8 million evacuated, 26 million hectares of farmland affected and more than four million rooms (the average farmhouse in China has one to three rooms) collapsed or damaged. Flooding season in China is, however, far from over and there is still potential for further devastation.

The scale of the humanitarian relief needs in China are huge and the Federation and the Red Cross society of China are fully engaged assisting and involving vulnerable group in a focussed disaster relief operation. The International Federation in partnership with the Red Cross society of China aims to provide 60,000 most affected families (240,000 individuals) in Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Guangxi and Fujian provinces with rice tents and quilts; and to assist 1,200 families to rebuild their homes lost in the floods. These five provinces are selected areas as they are most severely affected by recent typhoons. Donors are therefore encouraged to contribute generously to the appeal.

The situation

The 2006 flood season is rapidly emerging as one of the most serious in recent years. Only midway through the traditional floods season (June- September), Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hubei, Fujian, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces have witnessed the greatest levels of flood related deaths and damage triggered by five severe typhoons, tropical storms and heavy rains (See Table 1 for the cumulative flood related data since the start of the year).

According to the latest statistics issued by the National Disaster Reduction Centre of the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MoCA), the number of flood related deaths has soared from 208 at the end of May to 1,467 by end July, due to the two latest violent typhoons to strike the country. Overall, some 253,864,000 people throughout China have been affected by severe floods, far higher than in the previous six years and even exceeding the number of 238,973,000 people affected in 1998 by that year's record floods.

The 2006 flood season which has already resulted in an economic loss close to USD 10 billion, commenced in May with the dramatic entrance of Typhoon Chanchu, the first major storm to hit the region. Close to one million people were evacuated in Fujian and Guangdong provinces when the powerful typhoon struck China on Thursday 18 May leaving at least 21 people dead. According to director of the China Meteorological Administration, typhoon Chanchu, landed in Guangdong nearly 40 days ahead of the beginning of the normal typhoon season. Since then, localised storms and floods punctuated by a series of four more forceful typhoons have swept through China.

Typhoons Jelawat and Ewiniar subsequently hit south China's provinces following Chanchu, but it was 14 July's Tropical Storm Bilis which contributed to the greatest number of deaths and damage leaving 615 people dead and 209 missing, with some 3,376,100 million people needing to be evacuated in Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian, Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces as a result of the tropical storm. The floods related to 14 July's Tropical Storm Bilis alone swept away the livelihoods and homes of hundreds of thousands of rural farmers, completely destroying 1.3 million hectares of farmland and damaging an additional 326,590. Only ten days after Bilis struck, Typhoon Kaemi swept through on 25 July leading to the evacuation of over 1.3 million people and the destruction of 56,100 additional homes. Kaemi also caused damage to 60,600 homes and affected close to 143,000 hectares of farmland, of which 11,750 hectares were completely ruined.

According to the Director of China's International Disaster Reduction Committee, since the 1990s, losses from natural disasters have visibly increased due to the new round of economic growth. According to the director's paper presented at the International Conference on Disaster Reduction held in Beijing at the end of May 2004, devastating losses to lives, crops and property due to flooding as well as droughts and earthquakes, account for 80-90 per cent of the substantial economic losses of some USD 12 billion (CHF 14.8 billion) per year. In China, natural disasters such as floods destroy on average a reported 4,182,000 houses per year with some four million people per year needing to be urgently resettled or transferred from their homes. Thus far in 2006, damage related to floods and typhoons has outpaced the damage incurred over the past five years over the same time frame underscoring the urgent need to not only respond to this year's floods but to prepare communities for future episodes of flooding.

The loss of nearly 27 million hectares of land to recent floods only exacerbates the obstacles faced by the country's rural farmers. Even without the obstacles posed by flooding, few farmers have enough land to farm on. According to the nation's social security authority, about 40 million farmers lost their land as a result of rapid urbanization. At the same time China's arable land has reduced from 130 million hectares in 1996 to 122 million hectares in 2005; and per capita arable land is 0.093 hectares, only one-third of the global average. Agricultural production is limited to the amount of land assigned to each household, with the average acreage per family being about one mu of land roughly equivalent to one-tenth of an acre, or a little smaller than an Olympic-size swimming pool.

In China it is women rural farmers who are hardest hit by the floods, as the women in the rural villages are responsible for much of the agricultural work. With an increasing number of men employed in the cities as migrant labourers the women remain in the countryside to attend to the farms and take care of young children and aging parents. Following the loss of crops and homes, heads of household who are men are left with no other choice than to head to the cities as quickly as possible to earn the money that will allow their families to once again have a roof over their heads and enough food to eat while women must ensure the health and well being of their families without adequate shelter while scraping together enough money for food, school fees and medical costs.

A key priority for the displaced families is to rebuild their homes, so they can return and resume some normality. One of the primary causes of flood damage to houses is the use of poor quality construction materials. Many farmers unable to afford cement and other proper materials, and consequently build houses with a mudbased sealant that is often unable to stand up against floodwaters. Additionally, many of the poor farmers particularly the elderly, have difficulty to pay for labourers. On average a typical 60 square metre brick house which lacks water and sanitation facilities or glass windows, will cost anywhere between RMB 30,000- 60,000 (approx. USD 3,658 - 7,317) to build. The local governments' ability to provide assistance for rebuilding destroyed homes depends on their own resources, and the extent of the damage caused by floods. However, for many, the financing for building a new house often involves entering into long-term debt to re-pay loans taken from an agricultural bank and private sources.

Despite governmental efforts to address the issue, extreme poverty remains an ever-present reality in some parts of the country. Nearly 20 per cent of the world's poor are still to be found in China, and 600 million people in China sustain their families on USD 2 or less per day. Furthermore, some 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 (USD 85.4), and over fifty percent of China's 592 poorest counties are suffering from grain shortages. According to UNDP's 2005 China Human Development Report natural disasters are a major contributing source of poverty in the country's central and western areas, mountainous and minority-inhabited regions and pockets of poverty in the more developed rural areas.

Map: China: Floods - Situation map

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

Red Cross Society of China: Wang Xiaohua (director of external relations department); email:; phone: +86.10.6404.8366, fax +86.10.6402.9928.

Federation East Asia regional delegation in China: Alistair Henley (head of regional delegation);; phone: +86.10.6532.7162, fax: +86.10.6532.7166.

Federation Secretariat in Geneva (Asia Pacific department): Ewa Eriksson (regional officer); email:; phone: +41.22.730.4252; fax: +41.22.733.0395; or Sandra Rosner (senior assistant); email:; phone: +41.22.730.4456; fax: +41.22.733.0395

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