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18 APR 2014

Oxfam completes first phase of rehabilitation work in response to Ya’an earthquake and prepares for second phase

On 20 April last year, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Lushan County in Ya’an Prefecture, Sichuan Province. Oxfam responded immediately by sending staff to engage in relief work. Oxfam first used over HK$3.62 million in funds to send three batches of relief materials to the disaster area, meeting the urgent needs of around 46,000 survivors. Last July, Oxfam started the first phase of rehabilitation work in the area. It aided residents under 12 projects, including those involving installing water supply systems and ecosan toilets, rebuilding roads, raising chickens, and disaster risk reduction. This phase concluded on 18 April this year, and Oxfam is currently preparing for the second phase. To date, it has allocated HK$5.23 million to the post-quake relief and rehabilitation work.

Phase one: Rebuilding infrastructure and livelihoods together

Emergency relief work came to a close at the end of May last year. From June to August 2013, Oxfam started rehabilitation work in the villages of Baosheng and Taiping Townships, both in Lushan County, in response to needs there. Oxfam provided support for building ecosan toilets and repairing water supply networks, disseminated information on personal and community hygiene, and arranged for temporary healthcare for those who needed it.

After the disaster, the Mainland Chinese government released its long-term post-disaster rehabilitation plan, indicating that it would use most of its funds on rebuilding houses and other major infrastructure. Seeing this, Oxfam decided to focus on remote locations which were especially lacking in resources and where the needs were greatest. It would complement the government’s rehabilitation measures by assisting residents in rebuilding their livelihoods, reducing disaster risk, and maintaining hygiene standards in the affected areas. The projects assisted villagers in repairing small infrastructure and becoming better prepared for responding to disasters in the future. The work included improving water supply networks in Zhengwang and Longxin – villages in Yucheng Area in Ya’an and Longmen Township in Lushan, respectively – and repairing roads in Jiangganlin Village, also in Yucheng Area in Ya’an. Oxfam assisted villagers in rebuilding their livelihoods so they could raise the funds needed to rebuild their homes. For example in Qilao, a village in Yucheng Area in Ya’an, residents raised chickens. Meanwhile in Xinglin Village in Lushan’s Taiping County, Oxfam provided support for repairing roads and implemented an education project for women and children.

Phase two: Fusing livelihood development with disaster-prevention

Oxfam is currently preparing for the second phase of the rehabilitation. Under this phase, Oxfam will support farmers in rebuilding their livelihoods and bringing their incomes back to pre-disaster levels. Oxfam has been encouraging villagers to participate in planning and managing the projects. Hopefully by doing so, they can become more self-reliant and cohesive as communities. Oxfam considers it important to strengthen the capacities of communities to respond to disasters as part of its livelihood-development work. It is working with the residents to review disaster histories in different villages, create a map, develop disaster-prevention systems, and conduct safety drills. Through these measures, the local inhabitants will become more prepared for future disasters and better able to avoid plunging back into poverty when such events hit.

Supporting civil society and NGOs

One of Oxfam’s strategic objectives is supporting the development of its partner organisations and civil society. Most of Oxfam’s partners in the Ya’an earthquake were local non-governmental organisations in the area. In the process of its work, Oxfam and the NGOs supported each other. Oxfam assisted them in building their capacities, enabling them to better allocate their resources and, in the future, to participate more in emergency relief and development work in the region. Through this, they will be better able to support poor communities in local villages.

Oxfam always prepared to respond to earthquakes

The Ya’an earthquake, whose epicentre was in Longmen Township in Lushan County, left at least 196 dead, 13,000 injured, more than 2 million affected and 200,000 buildings damaged. As of 5 May last year, over 720,000 people had been evacuated, Sichuan officials said.

Following the earthquake, Oxfam immediately sent a team of four staff from its Chengdu office to conduct a disaster needs assessment. It arranged for relief supplies to be delivered from its warehouses in that city and Kunming, with the first batch arriving the next day in Lushan County. The items that Oxfam sent in the aftermath included waterproof fabric, quilts, folding beds, mosquito nets, cooking utensils, water storage devices, and hygiene kits. Staff prioritised assisting poor people, the elderly, sick patients and people with disabilities, and tended especially to the needs of women, for example by providing feminine care products. During the emergency phase which concluded at the end of May last year, Oxfam sent over HK$3.62 million in emergency supplies to the quake-hit area, assisting around 46,000 people.

Oxfam received HK$2.06 million from the HKSAR Government Disaster Relief Fund to purchase supplies. After relief supplies from the government and other organisations ended, Oxfam staff conducted a need assessment in the quake area and found that the need for food, quilts and hygiene items among survivors had decreased. Also, the rainy season had begun. As a result, to meet the survivors’ changing needs, Oxfam made adjustments to its funding allocation and focused on purchasing waterproof fabric, steel folding beds and mosquito nets. These were greatly appreciated.

The Disaster Relief Fund requires that the amounts allocated be used for specific disasters. Expenses will be reimbursed exactly. After completing the relief work, Oxfam submitted an evaluation and financial report to the fund, including an audited account. 
Oxfam uses separate accounts for public donations for disaster relief, and the Ya’an earthquake was no exception. 

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About Oxfam
Oxfam is a worldwide development organisation that mobilises the power of people against poverty.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Senior Communications Officer Sarah Chu
Telephone: 3120 5280 / 9276 0064

A Ya’an resident shows a disaster-mitigation and prevention plan for his village. Oxfam has been providing support so village representatives in Ya’an can receive training in disaster management, draw up diagrams showing the impact of disasters, and develop disaster-mitigation and prevention plans. (Hezhong Cultural Development Centre / Oxfam Partner)

Technicians speak to villagers about how ecosan toilets work as Oxfam unveils a project to improve sanitary conditions at a disaster relief camp. (Oxfam)