Tue, Aug 10, 2004 - Page 5 News List

China's Red Cross Society struggles with donor fatigue

REUTERS , Beijing

The Red Cross Society of China is struggling with donor fatigue since a wave of donations during last year's SARS crisis and is under pressure from a harsh summer flood season that has failed to gain publicity.

In the first seven months of the year, more than 78 million people in China were victims of flooding and 462 people were killed, the Red Cross said yesterday at a news conference to launch a domestic appeal for donations.

"We are not very optimistic about the donation situation this year," said Sun Aiming, vice president of the society. "The Red Cross Society of China is making this call because this year's disaster situation is very particular."

The death toll from this year's flooding does not approach the scale of the disaster in 1998 when more than 4,000 people were killed by floods along the Yangtze River.

But victims this year were generally harder to reach and some were worse off, Sun said.

"Most this year are in mountain regions and many areas are impoverished and areas where minority groups are located," he said. "They generally lack the ability to help themselves."

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said disasters were helping push a growing number of rural Chinese under the international poverty threshold of US$1 a day.

"It is clear that many rural poor are becoming poorer and disaster is one of the causes," said Alistair Henley, head of the IFRC's East Asia delegation.

The Chinese government said last month that an additional 800,000 Chinese last year were living below the national poverty level of US$77 a year, the IFRC said in a report.

Cash donations to the national Red Cross society quadrupled to close to 68 million yuan (US$8.2 million) last year from 16 million yuan in 2002 because of SARS, said Yang Xusheng, head of the Red Cross relief division.

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