Viet Nam: Floods and Storm Appeal No. 23/00 Operations Update No. 4


This Ops Update is intended for reporting on emergency appeals.
Launched on 13 September 2000 for CHF 338,764 for 3 months. Budget increased to CHF 2,584,180; programme extension until 31 July 2001.

DREF Allocated: USD 30,000
Beneficiaries: 125,000

Period covered: 20 November 2000 - 1 May 2001 (last Ops Update issued on 19 December 2000).

Phases I and II of the floods and storm operation have been completed, ensuring provision of food and non-food items to disaster victims, including fishing nets and boats to ensure longer-term support. However, distributions continue in Tien Giang and Kien Giang Provinces which were affected by floods at a later date. Phase III of the operation has begun and is progressing well. Of a total of 3,000 safe houses to be built, 1,200 have been completed to date. The Red Cross of Vietnam (VNRC)/Federation provide the house frame, foundations and roof - the basic structure of a weather-proof house - to the most vulnerable who are most exposed to natural disasters.

The context

As of August 2000, an early, prolonged monsoon dropped heavy rain along the catchment area and the 4,000 km long engorged Mekong river which spilled over its banks and caused devastating floods in the Mekong Delta. The Delta is economically important to Vietnam as it accounts for 40% of the country’s agricultural production, including 50% of the rice crop. It also houses new economic zones which are frontier settlements set up in an expansive, water logged region, barely above sea level. The area is undergoing substantial change, with swamps transformed manually into rice fields. Infrastructure is basic, with few all weather roads and the land is latticed by drainage channels, dykes, estuaries and canals which were soon overwhelmed by the swollen waters of the Mekong in flood. For the next four months, the ensuing floods had a devastating impact on human, social, economic and environmental conditions, especially in the five worst affected Mekong Delta Provinces of Dong Thap, Long An, An Giang, Kieng Giang and Tien Giang.

482 lives, including many children, were lost. Five million people had their homes flooded, and up to 60,000 households, or over a half a million people, were evacuated, often several times due to progressively crumbling or submerged dykes. These people eked out a miserable, drenched existence huddled together in cramped conditions under temporary shelter. These people have been the focus of relief and rehabilitation assistance provided through the Red Cross of Vietnam (VNRC).

Whilst attention was focused on the badly affected Mekong Delta population, two related but geographically separate disasters also struck Vietnam - tropical storm Wukong, which hit Ha Tinh Province and seriously affected over 1,000 families, and flash floods which occurred in Dac Lac Province in the Central Highlands affecting over 600 families.

The Vietnam Red Cross has taken the lead in supporting the efforts of the government of Vietnam in the provision of relief and rehabilitation assistance following each of these disasters.

Latest events

The most recent figures relating to flood damage can be seen below:

SUMMARY REPORT ON DAMAGE
CAUSED BY FLOODING IN MEKONG DELTA (figures as of 24 Nov)
Description
Unit
Total
Long An
Dong Thap
An Giang
Kien Giang
Can Tho
Tien Giang
Vinh Long
People dead
No.
482
73
150
116
62
31
44
6
Houses affected
No.
825,974
107,779
300,000
151,010
75,273
63,566
102,080
26,266
Houses evacuated
No.
58,353
15,168
17,335
13,676
4,750
89
6,675
660
Houses collapsed and destroyed
No.
4,336
1,613
1,021
682
246
241
460
73
Schools inundated and damaged
No.
3,296
431
489
413
494
560
420
489
Pupils forced to be out of school
No.
834,467
103,270
345,000
129,639
59,568
59,034
110,356
27,600
Clinics inundated and damaged
No.
421
82
124
56
73
9
48
29

As the water receded in late November and December, people began to return home. For many, this led to more despair. For example, houses made from local materials which had not been included in the statistics as having collapsed, had been damaged to the extent that they needed to be completely rebuilt. Repairs to essential infrastructure are ongoing including previously flooded roads, major earthworks and public buildings - schools and clinics - which are, for the most part, running once again, although in difficult conditions.

Although agricultural production stagnated and one crop has been destroyed during the crisis, the floods will have a long term beneficial effect for rice farmers. On the other hand, fruit growers and fish farmers face ruin as fish were swept away and citrus, mango and logan orchards were destroyed. Rice crops may be back to normal in as little as four months, however fruit crops will not return to pre flood levels for some four years.

At a meeting in mid November in Dong Thap town in the centre of the flooded provinces, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai praised the relief efforts of the authorities and singled out the activities of the VNRC. This meeting, which brought together all the concerned government ministries, provincial People’s Committees and the National Society, mapped out the needs for rehabilitation of the flooded provinces.

The Vice President of the National Society pledged the commitment of the VNRC to the rehabilitation of up to 3,000 family homes through building techniques in which the VNRC has specialised over recent years. The VNRC also committed to extend its programme of storm and flood resistant schools which can be used by communities as refuges in times of disaster. The VNRC, supported by Australian Red Cross/AUSAID and the Federation have undertaken to reconstruct as many as 150 primary schools in the remote areas of the stricken provinces most affected by the floods.

Red Cross/Red Crescent action

Relief and Rehabilitation Programme

The Red Cross relief and rehabilitation programme is composed of three phases:

  • Phase I - Emergency rescue and immediate relief - Red Cross volunteer "shock brigades" worked alongside other agencies to evacuate families from their homes to safer ground. The Federation Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) complemented VNRC’s own reserves to provide emergency shelter and short term food assistance to 2,000 families in the most affected Provinces of An Giang, Dong Thap and Long An.

  • Phase II - Medium term needs, including the distribution of rice (3,515 mt), plastic sheeting (19,600), mosquito nets (32,000), soap (94,000) and water purification kits (36,200), family fishing boats (4,000) and fishing nets (4,000) to ensure food and income supplements, together with provision of clean water to families remaining on dykes;

  • Phase III - Longer term rehabilitation of family homes - 3,000 are under construction and a further 1,000 may be built. A disaster preparedness programme has been initiated in all twelve Mekong Delta provinces at primary schools and clinics under construction.

Progress to date

Phase I distributions were carried out in July and August 2000. Beneficiary selection of the most vulnerable was carried out among the families already evacuated to the dykes. Beneficiary lists were prepared by the local Red Cross, verified by the district Red Cross staff and then by the People’s Committee.

By the end of October 2000, all major relief distributions (phases I and II) in the three worst affected provinces of An Giang, Dong Thap and Long An were completed by the Red Cross of Vietnam. This included the distribution of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, rice, boats and fishing nets, water purification kits and soap.

Phase II beneficiary selection was carried out among the families evacuated to the dykes and also included a number of families who had not been evacuated from their homes. The latter were unable to find refuge close enough to home, or felt that their houses were relatively solid. They were, however, short of essential food or hygiene items and therefore fell within the selection criteria.

Training was provided to staff of the VNRC at district level in the selection of beneficiaries and the management of operations according to the guidelines issued by VNRC and the Federation. Phase II was more complex than Phase I, in terms of volume and as a result of the increasing levels of the flood waters. The VNRC took into account distributions carried out by the government of Vietnam, religious groups and international NGOs working in the provinces (in fact, many of these worked through VNRC).

The operation was facilitated by the upgrading of communications equipment within each of the provincial Red Cross chapters by providing ten mobile phones, fax machines and computers to those who needed them. A full set of office equipment was provided to Tien Giang Red Cross when the office was struck by lightening, destroying all equipment. In addition, three fast boats with outboard motors were purchased and deployed to the three worst affected provinces, together with fifteen local boats. Phase II distributions continue in the provinces of Tien Giang and Kien Giang - two provinces affected later by the floods, for which German government food assistance was provided. In addition, a further distribution of 10,000 pieces of plastic sheeting is being prepared among the five provinces, in order to support families returning to their homes from the dykes.

Phase I and II distribution details

Vietnam Red Cross Society
Allocations of food and non-food items
Up-dated on 11th December 2000

No.
Food/non-food items
Long An
An Giang
Dong Thap
Kien Giang
Tien Giang
Can Tho
Vinh Long
Ben Tre
Tra Vinh
Soc Trang
Total
1
Plastic sheet (pc)
3,750
5,800
6,300
1,150
1,400
450
450
100
100
100
19,600
USAID plastic sheets
108
120
120
60






408
2
Mosquito net (pc)
5,600
10,700
10,700
3,000
2,000





32,000
3
Australia Blanket (pc)

2,000
2,110







4,110
4
Soap (3 bars/unit)
16,200
31,400
31,400
9,000
6,000





94,000
5
Plastic buckets with WPT (pc)
5,000
10,000
10,000







25,000
German bucket



2,000
1,300





3,300
Australia bucket



4,920
3,000





7,920
6
Xuong (unit)
600
1,200
1,200
500
500





4,000
7
Fishing net (unit)
600
1,200
1,200
500
500





4,000
8
Life bouy (pc)
850
850
950
285
285
10
10
10
10
10
3,270
9
Life jacket (pc)
100
120
130
35
35
10
10
10
10
10
470
10
Rice (MT)
300
700
700
400
300

100



2,500
WFP rice
210
315
420







945
Ericson Rice




70





70
11
Motorboats (unit)
1
1
1







3
12
Red Cross vest/cap (set)
400
500
500
200
200





1,800
13
Composite long boats:










-
8m - 12HP/13HP
2
4
4







10
12m - 23HP/24HP
1
2
2







5
14
Megaphone
5
7
7
3
3





25

Notes;
1. WFP & Ecrison purchase themselves rice and delivery to the supported provinces.

Monitoring of the distributions was carried out by a team of monitors from the Hanoi office of VNRC, supported by the Federation team, composed of four expatriate delegates and seven national staff, deployed to the field for the distributions. In addition, monitors from different donor organisations were invited to join distributions and to visit selected beneficiaries at random. Quality control for most relief goods was assured by OMIC, a Japanese quality control company, and in the case of the family fishing boats, quality control was carried out by inspectors from the Department of Forestry which checked wood types and quality against contracts.

With an operation of this size, some difficulties inevitably arise. A small number of boats from the 4,000 distributed did not meet standards - some leaked as a result of damage during transport, others had been left in the sun too long and thus had to be retreated by the Red Cross at the distribution points. With the system for distribution, each boat had been numbered by the manufacturer, and more seriously damaged or faulty boats were replaced under a four year guarantee negotiated as part of the contract with each of the manufacturers.

In a few cases, beneficiary selection caused jealousy among families living in cramped conditions on the dykes. This mainly arose when more than one organization distributed to different beneficiaries in the same area using different quantities. This identifies a real need for better coordination among organisations - NGOs, the Red Cross and the government of Vietnam. In many cases, the VNRC was able to intervene to reduce tensions and to take care of social needs as well as those related to food and shelter. Some delays were also incurred. VNRC was obliged to delay some distributions until pledges from some donors became firm.

Phase III

The rehabilitation phase, already underway, will result in safer housing for 3,000 families. These houses, adapted for use in the Mekong Delta, are an extension of the successful campaign which led to 8,500 houses being built in the Central Provinces. The new design benefited from input from local authorities, the VNRC and the beneficiaries. Moreover, houses are built on screw foundations, which is a new concept in Vietnam, and which are cost effective. The foundations are delivered to the site and are inserted manually. They are ideal for the local, soft, clay soils and they enable house construction time to be reduced from nearly two weeks to only six hours.

The basic principles of the Red Cross of Vietnam housing programme are as follows:

  • The Red Cross aims to provide families with a basic house structure which can help them to survive floods and storm conditions which they might experience, so that their family members and most valuable personal belongings can be protected during such extreme weather.

  • VNRC does not provide complete homes to families, rather the National Society provides house frames, foundations and roofs which form a solid core onto which families can complete their homes - "a home is the work of a lifetime for a family" according to the President of VNRC, in summarising a design meeting of VNRC which established this programme.

  • Beneficiaries of the programme are selected on the basis of vulnerability - those people having lost their homes, families with children, households headed by women, families with elderly members, and those who have the least resources.

  • VNRC works with local authorities to ensure that families living in the most exposed areas can move to safer ground, if possible, close to their existing home - even a stronger house built in the middle of a raging torrent cannot be "safe".

  • VNRC provides support to the poorest families to finish the walls of their homes using local materials.

In preparation for the flood season, the VNRC/Federation sponsored a national housing competition, offering companies throughout Vietnam the opportunity to propose new, innovative designs for safer houses, using locally available materials or other materials on the market in Vietnam. Six finalists were chosen who then built their design, which was judged by a jury chosen from the Ministry of Construction, the Ministry of Finance, INGOs, People’s Committees, Red Cross chapters and headquarters, Federation representatives and the press. The design chosen by this independent jury was from the company which won the tenders from the Red Cross in previous operations - for reasons of simplicity of design, resilience and durability of materials and strength of design. It is hoped that during the tendering process, a wider selection of housing materials will be available.

Training for local Red Cross staff and local artisans began in January - covering building principles, technical aspects of the building technology used and monitoring procedures. Training was provided by the staff of the VNRC provinces which ran the housing programme during the 1998 and 1999 flood recovery operations. Given the importance of the contribution, house beneficiary lists will be closely monitored by frequent, random field visits. The American Red Cross will deploy a delegate to assist the Federation for five months. The team will consist of the HCMC operations manager, two engineers and a relief coordinator experienced in the housing programme in the Central Provinces. To date, 1.200 houses have been completed and the balance should be finalised by the end of June.

Also under consideration by the VNRC in Phase III is the provision of safer public buildings - schools and clinics - in the more remote areas of the Mekong Delta. This is one service in which the VNRC has specialized over recent years - most recently with the provision of 36 kindergartens/emergency response posts in the Central Provinces of Vietnam. These cost effective buildings, which are based on a pre engineered steel frame and lightweight, precast, concrete walls are designed to specifications which make them more resistant to storm and flood conditions. These buildings are unique because their strength is the result of a curved roof which encloses a functional space above the classroom. The ceiling serves to provide insulation and a floor so that for minimal extra cost the upstairs can be readily used. For example, it can be used as a library, a refuge or a disaster preparedness storage area. This construction makes up a programme which is separate from this appeal and is supported by the Australian Red Cross and AUSAID, with technical assistance from the Federation delegation.

Finally, four Red Cross mobile disaster preparedness/medical service boats are being built. They will provide community based health and first aid services as well as disaster preparedness training and services within the three worst affected provinces of Long An, Dong Thap and An Giang. The crew and staff are to be trained and the boats should be operational by June 2001. They will provide an outreach service from the Vietnam Red Cross to remote communities for years to come. The boats are funded through a grant from the Swiss government’s SDC office.

Outstanding needs

The appeal coverage stands at 111 per cent and there are no outstanding needs.

External relations - Government/UN/NGOs/Media

VNRC has been seen as the leading agency supporting the government of Vietnam and the Vietnam Fatherland Front in the provision of relief assistance to the families affected by the floods in the Mekong Delta. The senior leaders of the government officially recognised this achievement in the Dong Thap planning and review meeting. The National Society’s work has resulted in the VNRC improving its image and public profile through exposure to both the domestic and international press.

Other praise has also been forthcoming - most notably from the US President, during his historic visit to Vietnam, who paid tribute to the work of the Red Cross in a private meeting with the Red Cross of Vietnam and Federation and American Red Cross representatives.

Coordination with the NGOs involved in the relief programme is ongoing. World Vision relies on VNRC to carry out distributions. Coordination of information on NGO activities has been carried out by the Hanoi office of the Federation Delegation. The UN appeal is also closely coordinated with the Federation and the VNRC, and both the World Bank and the ADB are liaising with the Red Cross of Vietnam. Oxfam UK has been particularly supportive of Red Cross initiatives, providing support through the assignment of two water and sanitation experts to assist with initial assessment and a review of implementation.

An increasing trend this year has been the number of multinational corporations based in Vietnam which have made contributions to the appeal - Intel, NIKE, Fosters, Ericsson, Motorola, Conoco (UK), UNOCAL, American Express, Citicorp, and Ford have all helped.

A CD-ROM of photographs of each stage of the operation is available from the Federation delegation in Hanoi and the Federation Secretariat in Geneva.

Contributions

See Annex 1 for details.

Hiroshi Higashiura
Head
Asia and Pacific Department

Peter Rees-Gildea
Head a.i.
Relationship Management Department

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