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Farmers to Get New Year Help
Warm sympathy and help from the Red Cross Society of China will be available to thousands of impoverished families in rural areas, as well as laid-off workers in cities, in the New Year.

Thus far, a total of 5 million yuan (US$600,000) in government funds and public donations have been collected by the society to prolong its annual social-help programme, which has gone on for five years.

Commodities bought with this money will be sent to 25,000 selected poverty-stricken families from 10 areas, such as Northeast China's Liaoning Province and Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, according to Wang Lizhong, deputy president of the society.

Each family will be given articles like quilts and rice, worth 200 yuan (US$24), during the New Year period through the Spring Festival on the Chinese lunar calendar, which falls on February 1, 2003.

Meanwhile, materials worth 1 million yuan (US$120,000) that have been donated to the society will also be used to help people from poor provinces out of difficulty.

In the past five years, the programme has helped 54,500 families with the nearly 12 million yuan (US$1.45 million) collected by the society.

Wang also noted that more than 200 million yuan (US$24 million) in donations, comprising 58 million yuan (US$7 million) in cash plus goods valued at about 142 million yuan (US$17 million), were used to help more than 10 million victims of flood disasters in 2002.

For the first time, this year donations from the domestic side have exceeded those from outside, Wang added.

During disaster relief actions this year, the national disaster relief network played an important role, noted Sun Aiming, another senior official of the organization.

The network comprises six regional relief centres established by the society in Shenyang in Liaoning Province, Xi'an in Shaanxi, Chengdu in Sichuan, Wuhan in Hubei, Hangzhou in Zhejiang and Guangzhou in Guangdong.

First-aid materials were quickly sent to disaster sites from these centers, the services of which extend to many areas around them.

However, China still needs a center based in North China, which has not been established due to a shortage of money, said Sun.

"We greatly appreciate the selfless help from various parts of the world and welcome it to provide more support for the development of Red Cross services in China," Sun said.

The society, with 21 million members at 120,000 grassroots branches throughout China, will also make more efforts to participate in international Red Cross campaigns in the future, Sun said.

(China Daily December 25, 2002)

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