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Earthquake Diary: 22 May
26 May 2008, 06:15
by Liu Lei

UNV volunteer Liu Lei speaks to the Red Cross psychological intervention team before heading to the disaster area. (L. Liu/UNV)UNV volunteer Liu Lei speaks to the Red Cross psychological intervention team before heading to the disaster area. (L. Liu/UNV)A psychologist speaks to survivors of the Sichuan earthquake (L.Liu/UNV)A psychologist speaks to survivors of the Sichuan earthquake (L.Liu/UNV)
Mian Yang, Sichuan province, China: Life goes on and things are calming down in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. Concerning the psychological health of people in the disaster area, the Chinese Red Cross has launched a large-scale psychological intervention project, so according to the plan our team is going to check it out today in order to help them improve their practices.


The destination of our trip is Anxian County in Mianyang Prefecture. We start our journey in the early morning with Dr. Amgaa from the regional health delegation, communications and information officer Mr. Francis from IFRC, Mr. Ding from the Chinese Red Cross and myself from UNV.

After an hour and a half's drive, we arrive at Anxian County in Mianyang and meet with the first psychological support team sent by the Government. It’s interesting that some Chinese Olympic medal winners are involved in the activities psychologists have come up with to ease the psychological pressure on people. There are superstars such as table tennis winner Deng Yaping, diving winner Gao Min, gymnast Mo Huilan and shot-put winner Sun Haitao.                    

Then we have a talk with the leader of the team, Professor Yang Fengchi from Capital Medical University. He explains his team will stay in this county for five to ten days. Their tasks are mainly to provide individual and group psychological support, as well as training courses for local doctors and volunteers to enable a long term project.

Now they are focusing on psychological intervention for soldiers who have just withdrawn from the disaster area and have witnessed many terrible things. They draw on both international and domestic methods and say that if such support can be continued, maybe the patients will recover in one or two years.

For every person who is dead or injured, each will give psychological 'infection' to 10 relatives, says Professor Yang. Since this disaster brought approximately 270,000 casualties, that means there are 270,000 × 10 people need psychological aid. It could take ten years and three generations of Chinese psychologists


After the interview with the first psychological team serving soldiers, we move to Mianyang city where the second team is implementing psychological support to refugees in the big camp nearby. Here the team is divided into several small groups giving talks to refugees. They also do some questionnaires and assessments in order to build up a database for tracking people in the future.


After lunch we go back to Anxian County to check the conditions of hospitals there. There are three hospitals at the county level and more than 30 subordinated clinics in rural areas. Almost all clinics were destroyed completely and can't function.

Though the better hospital at county level can still get running, all the buildings are in a dangerous state and surgical equipment cannot be used. All patients were moved out. Fortunately, the most heavily injured patients were transported to another safer city and those staying can get enough medical aid.


We arrive at Chengdu. After 10 minutes rest we have a meeting. Some good news is coming that a German field hospital will arrive at Chengdu this week, donated from the German Red Cross Emergency Response Unit to the Chinese Red Cross.

Australia is going to supply some water purification equipment to disaster area. The first batch of emergency tents amounting to 10,000 donated by IFRC will be transported to Chengdu in the coming few days from abroad, and those tents will be delivered to local schools and hospitals for emergency use.