Sichuan Earthquake one year on: relief and recovery provided on massive scale

Published: 11 May 2009

One year ago, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Southwest China, leaving five million people homeless and taking an estimated 87,000 lives. While challenges remain as recovery continues, the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and its donors from around the world have spent more than the equivalent of 720 million Swiss francs (USD 630 million/Euro 477 million) on relief and recovery through end March 2009.

The RCSC and its international partners have either rebuilt or begun construction of more than 12,000 homes, out of a total of 70,000 homes to be built over the next two and a half years in the three worst affected provinces. In Gansu alone, all recovery projects have begun, with 20 per cent of housing construction complete, 50 per cent close to completion, and the remaining 30 per cent already under construction. The RCSC is also supporting the construction of 450 schools and 1,500 medical clinics and hospitals.

Additional programmes will address needs by helping people set up new ways of generating income, healing the emotional impact of the disaster and providing households with clean water.

The RCSC is also supporting the recovery activities of other charity organizations active in the region. According to the RCSC’s Executive Vice President, Jiang Yiman, “This has been a real change for us. Before, we tried to do everything ourselves, but we didn't have enough people. We are founded on the volunteer principle, and so we need to leverage that in the communities, the results of which have been good.”

During the relief phase following the earthquake, the IFRC provided 100,000 tents to survivors. Three IFRC Emergency Response Units provided clean water and sanitation to thousands of families, and this helped to avoid the outbreak of diseases. To help families through the cold winter, the IFRC provided 300,000 quilts and more than 130,000 food parcels.

The IFRC’s Sichuan earthquake emergency appeal has raised 153 million Swiss francs (USD 131 million/Euro 101 million) including cash, in-kind donations and pledges. Reconstruction efforts and integrated community-based programmes are expected to continue through April 2011.

In May 2008, about 200,000 people lost their lives in China and Myanmar after the devastation wrought by the Sichuan earthquake and Cyclone Nargis respectively. These two tragic events occurred within a week of each other and alone accounted for more than 90% of worldwide fatalities caused by natural disasters last year.