It is much easier to provide blankets and fresh water to disaster victims than to build them new homes; easier to relieve immediate suffering than to replace everything that was lost. More than nine months after the Sichuan earthquake, recovery and reconstruction work continues as people try to rebuild their lives.
Although the pace of rehabilitation has been faster than expected, as we near the anniversary of the May 12 earthquake everyone recognizes that long-term reconstruction is more difficult than immediate relief work.
Although the direct danger has faded, the government and aid agencies are facing serious challenges, as recovery and reconstruction work proves more demanding than expected.
Agencies such as Oxfam have been working closely with local governments to help in the reconstruction of damaged areas.
"The government lays down reconstruction priorities and plans," said Liao Hongtao, Oxfam China Unit Director. "We fit our work in with their priorities."
Oxfam was the first international non-governmental organization that enters into partnership with the government in the rehabilitation program.
It has financed 24 projects in the area hit by the quake, and expects to invest a total of 115 million yuan (US$16.9 million) over the next three to five years.
But the organization's contribution is dwarfed by the overall cost of the reconstruction, estimated at US$147 billion, plus an additional US$29-43 billion needed to bring the local economy back to pre-quake levels.
"The aid we have been able to provide to date is far from enough," said an official at Oxfam. "We need more help from both individual donors and institutions. This is a long-term engagement."
(China.org.cn by He Shan, February 16, 2009)