Making a difference to people’s lives: Red Cross helps community resilience in China

Publicado: 19 julio 2013 13:48 CET

By Kevin Xia in Gansu and Shaanxi

With their orchard producing bigger, tastier apples that fetch higher price, and in larger quantities, Wang Mingming and her husband Niu Jinwa are enthusiastic about the impact of a pumping station and a water channel that villagers built with support from the Red Cross Society of China.

“We used to have to walk for an hour to fetch water for my crops and fruit trees,” Wang Mingming says. “I have planted three Chinese mu (0.2 hectares) of apple trees. Our apple trees will grow 1,000 kilograms more apples this year because we have water. Also, the price increased from 3 yuan (49 US cents, 0.46 Swiss francs, 38 euro cents) per kilogram to 4.5 yuan per kilogram as the apples grow bigger and juicier with more water. We can use the extra 4,500 yuan to pay my son’s college tuition fees in Beijing.”

This is one example from the drought-prone district of Qinan County in Gansu Province of how the Red Cross Society of China community-based disaster risk reduction projects help to benefit rural communities in western China, where people are relatively poor and more vulnerable to adverse conditions and natural hazards.

The project in Shaanxi and Gansu provinces was designed and implemented following the Sichuan earthquake of 12 May 2008, which also affected these adjacent regions. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) supported the Shaanxi and Gansu branch of the Red Cross Society of China to implement a package of disaster preparedness and mitigation measures in 30 rural communities. These two provinces, that border Sichuan, suffered property damage but relatively few fatalities during the earthquake. They are also frequently affected by other disasters, particularly floods, landslides and drought.

In addition to providing funds for the community to build disaster mitigation structures, a set of integrated approaches has been used to reduce the disaster risk and enhance community resilience, including awareness-raising, volunteer empowerment, early warning system and simulation drills, livelihoods support and disaster preparedness education in school.

Zhong Maoju is a village doctor, who attended the disaster preparedness training, health training and first-aid training provided by the Red Cross. She has now become a first-aid trainer. “I will always value the knowledge and skills I have learned. I want to motivate my community and spread the word and skills. If there is another disaster, I will be part of responding to it,” she says.

The project has been successful in developing non-formal training methods, which have been enthusiastically received, including educational films, the use of drama and traditional music with messages about the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and disaster risk reduction.

Li Shezhong is a volunteer from Gansu province, living in a hilly village which is affected by floods and landslides almost every year. “Our village carried out a flood and landslide disaster simulation drill in 2012,” he says. “We showed villagers how to evacuate and perform first aid. At home, I keep dried food, some water and some common medicines. I have tools for digging and a life jacket. My family is ready, and we are ready to help our neighbourhood.”

Livelihoods training is also a part of disaster risk reduction training. The Red Cross has served as a bridge, inviting government agricultural staff to train villagers on soil management techniques, efficient water usage, crop rotation and livestock farming.

Promoting disaster preparedness in schools has been a key activity in the project. “If there’s an earthquake in high buildings, I would hide under a table first and protect my head. I would leave once the shaking stops,” says Liu Gaoyang, who is a Grade 5 pupil at the primary school in Gongchuan Village, Gansu Province. Local Red Cross staff work directly with the schools and provide basic disaster preparedness training, mostly relevant to the danger of an earthquake, which is perceived as the most likely threat to schools.

“Just as a healthy body is more immune to disease, a person with a raised risk awareness is safer during a flood, a village group with a better water storage structure is more resistant against drought, and a community with sustainable livelihoods recovers faster from an earthquake,” says Baktiar Mambetov, development delegate of the IFRC’s East Asia delegation. “This is the concept of building community resilience,”

A further integrated community resilience and development project is planned in four of China’s provinces – Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang – covering 37 communities. The project aims to draw on best practice from the global Red Cross Red Crescent network, with an emphasis on community needs assessment, participatory approaches and communities making their own development plans.