China: One year after the Sichuan earthquake rebuilding continues

from Save the Children
Published on 14 May 2009 View Original
A year after the Wenchuan Earthquake devastated Sichuan province, the process of rebuilding is well underway. Support from the government and from across China has been impressive, says Save the Children, but gaps still exist where targeted interventions can improve children's lives.

More than 87,000 people are confirmed dead or missing, and the homes of more than 11 million people were destroyed, after the devastating disaster of 12 May 2008. Because of the widespread damage to housing, an estimated 45 million people have been affected.

Millions of people have been relocated in temporary housing provided by the Government. Many have started the task of returning to their villages and homes to begin reconstruction. Funds are being made available to families to assist with this recovery process, but the task remaining is still difficult.

Save the Children has been working for the last year to support children affected by the earthquake.

"Our work has been designed to complement the response of the government," says Richard Casagrande, Save the Children Sichuan Programme Manager.

"For example, families have been housed in temporary areas, but they did not have safe places for children to gather, play, and try and process this traumatic experience. We have provided and staffed centres to meet this need. Similarly, temporary schools and kindergartens were constructed very rapidly, but sufficient funds for classroom equipment were not available in some areas, so we stepped in to provide desks, chairs, books and so on."

NGOs were not well known in Sichuan before the earthquake, but there has been increasing recognition of the valuable role that they can play.

"Our relationships with government agencies continue to strengthen, and the support for and understanding of our work from local officials is steadily improving," says Richard. The number of local civil society organisations has increased substantially since the earthquake, and they are seen by most to be meeting real needs.

Reconstruction efforts will continue in Sichuan for years to come, given the widespread and serious damage to both housing and infrastructure.

"We have identified children's needs which we think will continue in the years ahead, so Save the Children is now planning for a long-term presence in Sichuan," says China County Director Wyndham James