China

China: Floods Emergency Appeal No. MDRCN001 Operations Update No. 3

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Situation Report
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The 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 185 countries.

In Brief

Operations update no. 03; Period covered: 28 September to 9 November 2006,

Appeal target: CHF 5,950,200 (USD 4,825791 OR EUR 3,782,708)

Appeal coverage: 20.6%; Outstanding needs: CHF 4,725,777

Appeal history:

- Launched 2 August 2006 for CHF 5,950,200 (USD 4,825791 OR EUR 3,782,708)

- Disaster Relief Emergency Funds (DREF) allocated: CHF 213,000.

Operational summary: This operations update outlines the progress made in implementing the flood relief operation over the past six weeks. Although response to this appeal has been far less than hoped for, Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) and the Federation have given priority to ensuring a balance between providing basic relief supplies and rebuilding of homes in some of the most affected areas. This year's operation marks the first time that the RCSC is supporting reconstruction activities of homes in Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan and Jiangxi. The response to this new initiative so far has been positive both from project beneficiaries and RCSC relief staff. Each year, thousands of families lose their homes to floods and landslides due to the use of inadequate building materials (unfired, compressed mud "bricks") and because their houses are often built in high risk areas prone to landslides such as mountains. The RCSC is working with community members and the local government to support reconstruction efforts by ensuring that reconstructed homes are appropriately designed and that construction materials are sufficient.

Background

According to Belgium's Centre for Research and the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), flooding in China in 1998 has affected a greater number of people (almost 239 million) and caused more economic damage than any other natural disaster on record. In the past few months, flood-related damage in China induced by a series of typhoons and tropical storms that began in May exceeded that record, with the country's ministry of land and resources identifying 2006 as having the worst floods since 1998. From January to September, 13.2 million people were evacuated and relocated in response to 95,454 natural disasters such as floods, typhoons, mudslides and rock falls which killed 2,309 people and caused a direct economic loss of USD 24 billion (CHF 30 billion).

Focus on Guangdong Province

Over the period May through October, Guangdong province was struck by nine typhoons including 14 July's typhoon Bilis, resulting in the evacuation of millions of people. Thousands of the mainly rural poor lost their homes and crops. Severe natural disasters such as typhoons, floods and drought are annual occurrences in the province. Although provincial cities surrounding the Pearl river delta are prospering, communities in the mountainous northern, eastern and western parts of the province remain impoverished with some ethnic minority communities still living in rustic structures made of stones and branches. With a population of 79 million registered permanent residents and 31 million migrants, Guangdong is China's most populous province and home, according to the province's party secretary, to the country's richest and poorest. The province is thus a microcosm of the huge socio-economic contrasts and the accompanying challenges that face China's population today.

Arriving in Guangzhou's enormous newly constructed Baiyun airport is an exciting experience that continues from the first glimpse of the city's massive gleaming skyline into the city itself. Three hours away, the approach into Liangtian village in Guangdong's Huizhou city is more humble. Piles of bricks are strewn across the dusty paths that link the village's flood damaged houses. The scene is an increasingly familiar one in China's rural villages of a community comprised of the aging and the very young, as beneficiaries gather to receive a quilt from the RCSC and the Federation with their grandchildren looking on.

There was little time to get out with warnings of the oncoming floods coming from a phone call placed to the village leaders from nearby Huizhou city. Ten-year old Zhong Weina relied on the strength of her uncle to carry her out of the village in time to a nearby school which functioned as a shelter. In the distance, a scarred mountainside is a cruel reminder of the houses that were destroyed by deadly rockslides. Closer down the road, past the women washing their clothes in a stream, elderly residents in Xiaqing village go about their daily chores while the children are in the village school.

At 65 years old, Lizuo lives with his mentally disabled wife with his two sons having left the village for nearby Huizhou city where they work washing clothes. The force of the winds from this season's typhoons have torn the roof off of Lizuo's kitchen, but with his crops gone and having to cover his living expenses and the medical fees for his wife with the CNY 300 (CHF 47) per month he receives from his sons, fixing the roof is not an option. The house is dark and it has been a few months since Lizuo was able to pay for the trickle of electricity that powers the few bare light bulbs randomly suspended by wires. Still these families are not the poorest in the province according to the RCSC staff. "The really poor people are in the north", where the relief officers from the Guangdong provincial branch have just returned from visiting the branch's reconstruction projects.

For most of the world, Guangdong is thought of as a rich province with the province's large numbers of poor being forgotten. Nonetheless, the gap is breeding tensions between the country's rich and poor with a large increase in social unrest. Asked about the potential and existing tensions in his province, the RCSC's Guangdong provincial branch's vice-head of disaster relief sees an important role for the RCSC to play in modern China as "the bridge between the province's rich and poor."

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

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

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

Federation Secretariat in Geneva (Asia Pacific department): Ewa Eriksson (regional officer); email: ewa.eriksson@ifrc.org; phone: +41.22.730.4252; fax: +41.22.733.0395; or Sandra Rosner (senior assistant); email:sandra.rosner@ifrc.org; phone: +41.22.730.4456; fax: +41.22.733.0395

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