By John Sexton, China.org.cn staff reporter
Six months after the Sichuan earthquake, with winter approaching, Francis Markus, China spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), told China.org.cn that although there had been major progress in providing temporary housing units, there are still significant numbers of people in tents.
Two million in temporary homes
Psychologist Professor Wo Jianzhong holds a group session for fifty children at the at the Sunshine in Your Heart psychosocial project organized by the Red Cross Society of China in Yinghua Middle School, Yinghua Township, Shifang City (Sichuan Province) on 10th and 11th November 2008. [Photo: Francis Markus/IFRC]
Temporary, prefabricated homes are widespread and, according to some reports, are already housing 2 million people. But many people, especially in rural areas and townships will probably have to pass the cold and damp Sichuan winter in tents.
The IFRC is currently distributing 100,000 quilts, but in response to growing demand, is procuring a further 200,000 and will continue to monitor the situation and respond to needs.
The IFRC and the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) will help more than 50,000 families rebuild their homes across Sichuan, and some people have already been moved into permanent housing projects. Village clinics built by the China Red Cross Foundation (CRCF) and the Hong Kong Red Cross are now operational in dozens of communities, serving the needs of people whose health infrastructure was destroyed in the disaster.
Counseling and emotional support
Dr Jeya Kulasingam, Health and Psychosocial Support Delegate of the IFRC chats to children at the Sunshine in Your Heart psychosocial project organized by the Red Cross Society of China in Yinghua Middle School, Yinghua Township, Shifang City (Sichuan Province) on 10th and 11th November 2008. [Photo: Francis Markus/IFRC]
Mr. Markus emphasized that reconstruction is not just about bricks and concrete. Helping people deal with the emotional impact of the earthquake is a major part of Red Cross work. The RCSC recently organized a psychosocial training program for teachers and children in Shifang and plans to build up similar programs elsewhere.
He added that while life remains difficult, "a kind of normality has settled in, even if it's an abnormal kind of normality - I recently saw a man going for an afternoon jog, and a group of survivors settling down in their temporary shelters for a convivial afternoon of mahjong. But of course there are real needs and the greatest of those is housing, that's why we're working to roll out our reconstruction program as quickly as possible."
(China.org.cn November 14, 2008)