Update on Yushu Earthquake Relief Efforts

[updated May 21, 2010]

It has now been over a month since the devastating earthquake in Yushu, the capital of Yushu County in Qinghai Province (see my original post here). In that time, many people have stepped up and helped out, and the current situation seems to be fairly stable. Thank you to everyone who donated to relief efforts. This seems like perhaps a good time to highlight the efforts of the region’s monastics. Despite the fact that many of their own monasteries were destroyed, teams of monks and nuns provided much of the early relief manpower, digging out survivors and offering solace to the dead and bereaved. I have often heard complaints that Tibetan monastics do not engage in enough social justice work, so it was particularly gratifying to see so many helping in Yushu. Additionally, it is important to acknowledge the Chinese government’s efforts in Yushu. From most accounts the government’s efforts have been robust and dedicated, especially considering the the difficulties involved in getting tons of relief supplies across a thousand miles of damaged, high-altitude roads. The New York Times ran a series of articles (on April 17th, 18th and 23rd) discussing the tension between the monks and government officials, but I have heard from people on the ground that this tension was not as pronounced as they reported.

Woman in a home built from cardboard and bricks from earthquake ruins. Courtesy of Tamdin Wangdu.

Now that the immediate needs of residents have largely been met, attention has turned to reconstruction. Tamdin Wangdu of the Tibetan Village Project has reported that government efforts are focussed on long-term reconstruction, a project which could take several years to complete. In the meantime, many of the families who live in Yushu are still homeless, and could still use our help. Both the Tibetan Village Project and Plateau Perspectives continue to provide much needed aid in the region, supplying water filers, all-season tents and the training required for individuals to find new jobs. All of this without the bureaucracy that can slow-down and hinder government efforts. Please take a moment to look over their websites, and consider donating. Small amounts can still make a big difference.

The following is an appeal from Tamdin Wangdu of Tibetan Village Project, from an e-mail dated May 19th:

There is no hope of finding anyone else alive and basic needs for food have been met, but in other ways the situation the ground is unfortunately rather different from what has been reported in the news. In particular, there is still a shortage of tents to provide sufficient shelter for all of the people who are homeless. This may have been overlooked, since the official response locally, and also the international response, is now focusing on longer-term relief efforts. This is also necessary, as is the work of NGOs, social organizations and others in the area who are looking to focus on mid-term social needs, such as rebuilding businesses, providing training and facilitating the flow of information. Meantime, however, shelter is by far from adequate. In short, Yushu needs more tents.

If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me, and I will do my best to answer, or at least to pass the question along to someone who might be able to answer it.

Thanks to Robbie Barnett, Gray Tuttle, Clay Goforth, Brenton Sullivan, Tamdin Wangdu and Losang for providing information on relief efforts.

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