Swift Response for Victims of China Earthquake
by Diane Allen*
April 19, 2010—In less than 24 hours after a devastating earthquake ripped through the rugged terrain in China’s remote Qinghai province on April 14, an experienced team from The Amity Foundation was on the first flight out of Nanjing to coordinate emergency aid and to assess future relief efforts.
The Amity Foundation is a Chinese social service organization initiated by Christians in China nearly 25 years ago. It has been a major partner of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the General Board of Global Ministries in the People’s Republic of China ever since.
The earthquake in Qinghai (pronounced ‘ching high’), one of China’s poorest provinces, has claimed over 1,944 lives to date, and left nearly 13,000 injured or missing. The quake's epicentre occurred in Yushu County Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Yushu is situated on the Tibetan plateau, over two and a half miles above sea level. According to Amity’s She Hongyu, Assistant General Secretary, it has a population of 90,000 of which 93 percent are ethnic Tibetans,
Both the high altitude, which can make breathing challenging for those not acclimatized, and sub-freezing temperatures have made rescue and relief efforts especially difficult. “Freezing weather, hard mud floors, 60 percent oxygen density, sleeping bags to be warmed up, is the true picture of the rescue situation in Yushu,” said She. “Amity staff have been working in Qinghai non-stop, determined to help as much as possible.”
Relief for Remote Villagers
Once at the quake site and in coordination with national relief efforts, Amity and its local partner in the area began focusing relief efforts in Longbao Township, 14,500 feet above sea level and about 40 miles from the hardest hit town of Jiegu, the county seat. To date it has delivered emergency relief to nearly 4,000 thousand people in Cuoduo, Cuimei and Cuosang villages.
According to She, “Local buildings are mostly made of wood and low-level brick work. Many of them collapsed during the earthquake. Among the first batch of supplies were much needed quilts for the freezing weather at 1 degree Fahrenheit.” Other immediate provisions included: 2,790 cartons of mineral water; 1,120 cartons of sausages; 517 cartons of instant noodles; 50 tons of rice; 25 tons of wheat flour; and 600 sets of bedding.
Meanwhile, an Amity team has gone on an inspection tour of schools in Longbao Township to find out more about when they will be able to return to school again, how they can be fed and what needs to be done to repair and rebuild school, reported Amity’s Hong Kong office.
The terrain of Yushu County is harsh, a mixture of treeless, stony mountains and diminishing grasslands where desertification is a major problem. Most of Yushu County’s population, like those living in Cuoduo, Cuimei and Cuisang villages, are traditional animal herders, living well below China’s poverty line, with incomes of less than $130 per year. Poverty is one of the key reasons people are so vulnerable in times of disaster.
The Amity Foundation has been working in Qinghai’s Yushu County for several years, with integrated rural development and environmental projects. The organization was a key partner with UMCOR in responding to a massive earthquake in Sichuan Province in China in 2008. Nearly 87,000 people died in that earthquake.
Diane Allen is a Global Ministries’ missionary with the United Methodist China Program.