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Helping families recover after China’s earthquake

After a severe earthquake caused widespread destruction in southwest China, residents have been out on the streets asking for help to rebuild their lives.

Over 200 people were killed by the 6.6 magnitude earthquake which hit Sichuan on Saturday. Now, many of the survivors have been out on the streets with signs and placards asking for assistance. One farmer from the outskirts of Lushan, which was near the epicentre of the quake, told the news agency Reuters that people in his village were living out in the open air, with “no place to sleep [and] nothing to eat.”

The government of China responded swiftly after the quake hit by sending 18,000 troops to Sichuan and providing over 160 million dollars worth of aid for disaster relief and compensation. But the mountain terrain of the area is making access extremely difficult, with government vehicles, such as troop transporters and ambulances, becoming stuck on damaged or blocked roads. Many families whose homes have been destroyed say they are still waiting for tents and food supplies.

Aid agencies in the region are working to assist thousands of injured and displaced. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is coordinating with the Red Cross Society of China to assess the huge need for food, water, clothing and shelter. Speaking to Reuters, an IFRC spokesperson said that as well as helping with emergency needs in the immediate aftermath, many traumatised people would require support and those affected were already concerned about “how they will rebuild their homes and their livelihoods”.

Save the Children reported that it had managed to get a team through on foot to the area of the epicentre, where its helpers were “seeing huge gaps in the provision of food and water and tents”. The organisation said it had received support from the government and army in helping to distribute materials. In the longer term, it plans to “provide psychosocial support” to children who have been affected and set up places where children feel safe and have somewhere to play.

Oxfam told Reuters that it will focus on supporting “temporary settlement” at this stage, but will look to set up a “longer-term rehabilitation programme” once the immediate relief phase is over.

The SOS Children’s Village at Chengdu is offering to care for any children who have lost parents in the disaster. See SOS Children ready to help after China quake for more information.

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