By John Sexton
China.org.cn correspondent reporting from Sichuan
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is an umbrella organization that provides support to 186 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies worldwide. On June 7, China.org.cn interviewed Francis Markus, China spokesperson for the IFRC, in Chengdu where he is helping coordinate the IFRC response to the Sichuan earthquake.
Can you describe the IFRC response to the Sichuan Earthquake?
The IFRC initially put out an appeal for US$19 million for the Sichuan earthquake and this has since been revised upwards to US$95 million. We expect another upwards revision.
IFRC China spokesman Francis Markus (left) and Spanish Red Cross team leader Jaime Gara at the Red Cross base camp in Jiulong Town, Mianchu City, Sichuan Province, June 9, 2008.
The IFRC effort is mainly focused on the need for shelter as there is an acute shortage of tents in the disaster area. The Chinese government plans to mobilize 900,000 tents and the IFRC has pledged to deliver an additional 100,000 by the end of June. This means we have to get thousands of tents through Chengdu airport every day if we are to meet our target.
Another important issue is water and sanitation. The IFRC is providing three Emergency Response Units (ERU), two of which will provide clean and safe drinking water for 30,000 people and a mass sanitation module to provide toilets for 20,000 people. The units will be operated by teams from Austria, Britain, France and Spain.
In the longer term the IFRC will help with the process of reconstruction, especially in the more remote and vulnerable communities.
Have you had any problems sourcing relief supplies?
We are sourcing all our tents from outside China. Tens of thousands, the bulk of them, will come from Iran, as the Iranian Red Crescent just happens to have large numbers of tents available. This will simplify the logistics as there will be an easy supply chain from Tehran to here. We are also sourcing tents from Germany, Finland and Japan.
How did you select the sites of the Emergency Response Units?
The Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) initially singled out the places. We then sent our people in to do an assessment and finally the ERU teams themselves did their own assessments, so we had several layers of assessments. We decided on Jiulong, Banqiao and Xinglong, all in Mianzhu.