Supplies brought in by UMCOR partners, the Amity Foundation and member-churches of the China Christian Council, reach the earthquake-damaged area of Dingxi.
By David Tereshchuk *
August 6, 2013—The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is supporting relief and recovery efforts in China after two earthquakes this year caused significant damage, injury, and loss of life.
China was badly hit in April when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Ya’an City and surrounding counties in Sichuan Province, killing 190 people and injuring 8,000. And again more recently, in July, a quake of magnitude 6.6 struck Dingxi, in the northwest province of Gansu. This second quake and its several hundred aftershocks caused at least 94 deaths and injured more than 1,000 people. More than 22,500 homes were destroyed or severely damaged.
UMCOR was quick to step in with assistance after the Sichuan disaster. A grant of $10,000 was made to the China Christian Council (CCC) primarily for medical aid, which involved working with a local implementing partner, the Amity Foundation. Like UMCOR, the Amity Foundation also is a member of the international church organization ACT Alliance.
The aid has targeted some especially vulnerable population groups. These include the elderly—many of whom had spent lifetimes working on tea-plantations—and women and children, who were experiencing medical needs not met by existing sources amid some chaotic post-disaster conditions. Medical teams marshaled from among churches across Sichuan Province arrived to operate free clinics in and around Ya’an and provided free diagnoses and medicine.
Along with seeking to improve survivors’ physical condition, the teams worked to provide psychological comfort, too, as part of their overall effort to speedily restore as normal a life as possible. UMCOR’s experience in disasters has led staff and partners to place a firm emphasis on psychosocial support as well as immediate remedies for physical needs.
And in addition to local residents receiving the mental and emotional aid they might need, the program also has taken account of the psychological needs of the hard-working volunteers, who often undergo severe stress themselves.
Now areas hit by the July earthquake in Gansu Province also stand to benefit from similar efforts at rebuilding normalcy. UMCOR is currently reviewing a proposal for support for an Amity/CCC program that will help an estimated 4,000 residents in the surrounding areas of Dingxi City. The program will concentrate on poor communities in remote districts, well beyond Dingxi’s more central affected areas, to counter the risk of relatively isolated populations being overlooked.
Some simple and immediate items are desperately needed, like beds and quilts, and for the many families made homeless, the rehabilitation of severely or completely damaged houses has to be carried out. Survivors’ livelihoods have suffered terribly too, of course, and the program has a component that will provide support for small-scale agriculture and animal husbandry.
Collaboration with the China Christian Council and the Amity Foundation clearly already has paid great dividends in the work to repair so many severely disrupted lives.
“UMCOR is glad to be an active participant in this local and global network of caring,” says UMCOR Assistant General Secretary for International Disaster Response the Rev. Jack Amick.
Your gift to International Disaster Response Advance # 982450, will help under-served communities affected by disasters such as those in Ya’an, Dingxi, and elsewhere.
* David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who regularly contributes to www.umcor.org.