Thursday, May 22, 2008

China: Emotional needs enormous as people come to grips with life after the earthquake



China: Emotional needs enormous as people come to grips with life after the earthquake
Author: International Committee of the Red Cross
Published on May 21, 2008 - 10:32:53 AM

Geneva 21 May, 2008 - Many survivors in Sichuan province - still nervous a week after a massive earthquake struck the region - are sleeping outside tonight worried by the latest reports of another possible major 6 or7 magnitude aftershock striking the area, according to the local seismological bureau.

With more than 40,000 dead and 4.8 million people left homeless, survivors are facing the daunting task of dealing with the emotional impact of the earthquake.

"Many people have lost so much - their loved ones, homes, and their livelihoods. Coupled with fears of another earthquake and an uncertain future, the psychosocial needs for are enormous," says Amgaa Oyungerel, regional health delegate for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Chengdu. "Supporting the emotional recovery of survivors is urgently needed and the Red Cross is incorporating this support throughout its operations."

The Chinese Red Cross has sent a 19-person team to Mianyang, composed of medical experts and psychologists from major medical institutions in Beijing. They will offer counselling to survivors and training for Red Cross volunteers on techniques to provide additional emotional support to those affected. A second Red Cross team with 24 people arrived on Wednesday to assist with these efforts.

"It's truly moving to see a group of Red Cross volunteers comforting survivors after such a traumatic event," says Francis Markus, spokesperson for the International Federation in Chengdu. "With people so desperate for any information about their missing family members, it's important that the Red Cross can offer such a service."

The Red Cross is also providing support to families who do not know the fate of their loved ones. A Red Cross team left Beijing on 19 May to the affected areas to conduct assessments and focus on tracing missing family members.

"It is hard to eat or sleep or do anything for that matter, if you don't know what has happened to your family or friends," says Oyungerel.

The Chinese Red Cross, along with China Netcom, has established a hotline and website to help locate missing family members. The hotline is +86 11 61 14 and the website is http://xunqin.169ol.com. People with missing loved ones must be able to provide contact details, such as a mobile phone number or address, for the missing person in order for a case to be opened.

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