CHENGDU, China (BP)–Families in China’s earthquake-ravaged Sichuan province are in greatest need of water purification and trauma counseling, a Southern Baptist assessment team has concluded after a seven-day visit to the region that concluded May 30.
The 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck the region May 12 killed more than 69,000 people in hill country north of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Nearly 19,000 people still are listed as missing, and 368,545 reportedly were injured. China’s Xinhua news service reports that 15,147,400 people have been evacuated from the disaster area.
“China is a special case when it comes to disaster relief,” Southern Baptist disaster relief expert and assessment team leader Mickey Caison said. “Many of our normal expectations and strategies do not apply here. The best way to support these needs is to primarily work through local groups.
“With a population of 1.3 billion, there is no shortage of labor,” Caison said. “And the Chinese army provides an almost limitless pool of manpower that is instantly responsive to government management.”
China’s highly developed manufacturing capacities and medical resources have been effectively deployed for disaster relief, Caison added. The country’s high level of social organization and powerful command and control mechanisms have enabled a response that would be impossible in the West, he said.
“Even with all those factors, the team did find that there are many needs,” Caison said. “During normal times, all water in China has to be boiled before drinking. With the earthquake destroying many of the water sources in the affected area, there is a great need for potable water.”
The assessment team proposed purchasing and distributing 2,000 household water purification units at a cost of less than $15 each and is researching the supplies needed to build water purification units for families, Caison said. A low technology water purification unit would provide each family the ability to provide safe water for themselves.
The team also discovered a need for trauma counseling with volunteers who have worked in the recovery effort as well as with community members who lost loved ones and possessions in the quake, Caison said.
“We discovered this type of ministry was needed for the volunteers who were ministering in the affected communities,” Caison said. “While this need was expressed, the team is uncertain whether or not Southern Baptists will be able to provide this support and a specific recommendation has not yet been made. We are exploring various ways of providing this type of care.”
While tents, food and water were being effectively distributed in the disaster area, the team found an immediate need for kitchen utensils to prepare the food and immediately arranged for 1,000 sets of kitchen utensils -– a wok frying pan, serving spoons, cutting board, etc. -– to be supplied by a local businessman for a total cost of $30,000. The group began delivery of the sets while they were in the area and arranged for local groups to distribute the remainder. The team proposed that an additional 1,500 sets also be purchased.
Government officials also expressed an interest in the possibility of Southern Baptists helping rebuild some schools and purchasing materials for students and teachers.
Ben Wolf, director of work in the Asia Rim area for Baptist Global Response, met with the assessment team prior to their departure and will remain in Sichuan to further research the team’s recommendations and search for other opportunities to help.
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press. Baptist Global Response’s website is www.gobgr.org.