China

Floods push victims into poverty trap - China

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"The most severely affected victims of this year's disaster have experienced flooding three to five years in a row, and have ended up in a poverty trap." Those were the words of Dr Stefan Seebacher, who has just led an International Federation assessment mission in China.
Although this year's flooding is thought to be less severe than last year's, it has left a million people homeless and forced the evacuation of 5.5 million others. Many more face a threat to their livelihood as millions of hectares of farmland lie under water. Both rice crops this year have been lost in many areas, robbing farmers yet again of their income base.

"Millions of people remain in dire need of food, clean water and sanitation material," says Dr Seebacher. The provinces of Hubai, Hunan, Anhui and Jiangxi are particularly affected by the Yangtze river once again overflowing its bank due to two months of torrential storms. The floods, which are still about four to five metres deep, are expected to last until late September.

As a result of the assessment mission, carried out jointly by the Federation and the Chinese Red Cross, the Federation has decided to step up its assistance. In a revised appeal for 10.2 million Swiss francs ($US 7 million), it hopes to meet the needs of a million people, and further reinforce its support to the Red Cross Society of China, which responded immediately to the initial emergency.

Food assistance will be provided for three months to 250,000 people in communities worst hit by the disaster. The Federation will also ensure that over one million people get access to clean water in order to prevent outbreaks of epidemics, and will provide sanitation materials to treat pools of stagnant polluted water, which are common breeding grounds for water-borne diseases.

The revised appeal replaces a preliminary one issued earlier this month to deal with the emergency needs of victims. "Local Red Cross committees are working in all the flooded areas, responding with rescue work, providing basic medical help, ensuring that clean water is provided for people and giving out immediate relief supplies and clothing," says Margareta Wahlström, the
Federation's head of disaster response and operations.

=A91997 International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies