02 June 2008, 22:56
by Liu Lei
Lacking adequate sanitation and water, people in the Sichuan earthquake zone dig wells. (L.Liu/UNV)A woman and her baby picked up by UNV volunteer and the IFRC team near Jiulong. (L. Liu/UNV)Mianzhu, Sichuan Province, China:
The best way to prevent epidemics in quake affected areas is to guarantee the safety of drinking water and the treatment of waste. IFRC has paid much attention to that and sent a health delegation to follow it up.
Along with the further investigations of the health delegates, IFRC is bringing more and more ERUs (Emergency Response Units) to help deal with the pain of the quake aftermath. And all ERUs, who will be the spot soon, will bring mobile systems for water purification. These are like small-scale water factories to offer safe drinking water for quake survivors.
The British ERU is ready to run and the Spanish and Australia-French ERUs are coming in a few days. Today I will go with the British ERU to Jiulong and Banqiao Townships of Mianzhu City, which were destroyed by the tremor, to investigate where to locate the water purification system and set up mobile toilets in order to ensure sanitation.
After a short meeting for dividing up work in the morning, I accompany the British ERU to visit two townships in Mianzhu City. After two hours driving, we arrive at Deyang Prefecture near Mianzhu City and have a meeting with the local Red Cross branch on setting up a base for the British ERU team. It is important to consider the security of ERUs in aftershock areas because Mianzhu is close to the mountainous area of the quake zone.
We arrive at Mianzhu City and check another big camp with approximately 8,000 homeless people there. Then we start the journey to Jiulong and Banqiao Townships of Mianzhu. During the way there, we see many ruins in both urban and rural areas, and especially the rural areas are very seriously hit with almost nothing left. Though people can stay in tents, their lives are suffering.
When we get close to Jiulong town, we see a woman near the road waving her hands and asking for help with her young baby. She explains to us that her baby may have diarrhoea and wantsto send him to hospital in town, but there are no buses available now due to damaged road. So we take her and her young baby with us and the IFRC health delegate gives a first diagnosis. We then send them to the Red Cross hospital in town and the baby gets good treatment.
In the afternoon, we check water resources for the water purification system, which should supply enough drinking water for 12,000 persons per day, and toilet sanitation conditions in both Jiulong and Banqiao townships. We have discussions with local leaders and interviews with villagers to get the full picture.
It’s great that two townships will receive 300 mobile toilets from Britain and water purification systems for each. With their help, the whole township area can be covered by that system and people won’t need to drill new wells one by one and get annoyed at the shortage of toilets.