Welfare institutions in south and central China are having the hardest
time dealing with the weather disaster. This part of the country is
simply not equipped to deal with extreme cold or heavy snow and ice. The
most common critical problems are power outages, lack of safe drinking and
cooking water, lack of fuel, diapers and public transportation. In many
places where buses have stopped running, our Half the Sky nannies have
been walking hours (in one case, 4 hours) along icy roads to get to the
children. As conditions worsen, our nannies and teachers are remaining at
the institutions day and night. They have given up the idea of going home
to their own families for the holidays. They need quilts. They need warm
clothing. They need coal, water, disposable diapers and food.
Here are the reports I have thus far, while in-flight. I will send more
soon. Where you don't see a report, either all is well or I don't yet
have information. I will tell you when we've heard from everyone. We've
also given all the directors an emergency number to call when/if the
Hunan Province –
Chenzhou has had no electricity or water for six days. They are relying
on coal for heat and cooking. The supermarkets and banks are closed.
Staff is using personal money for baby food, diapers, coal and water.
Costs are rising due to shortages. They have a natural well which,
thankfully, is not frozen. Even the older children are helping to fetch
water. They have perhaps six days of food remaining. The local
government is overwhelmed by the disaster and is unable to help much.
Shaoyang has seen heavy snow every day for 20 days. There is sufficient
water and, for the moment, there is power, so the children are warm.
However, 5 of 6 power poles have been downed by weather. Only one stands
and the institution fears it will fall as well, leaving them without
electricity. Much of the rest of the city is already dark. Children and
caregivers continue to work and play together. High school students are
cramming for exams and trying to ignore the cold. Everyone prays that the
power pole will continue to stand.
Yueyang also has no electricity. The one functioning power generator is
being used in the children's dormitory. They are relying on coal heat but
the price has tripled in recent days. They are running out of food and
have applied to the local Bureau of Civil Affairs for funds to buy more.
Our HTS nannies have been walking for hours to get to work, often slipping
on the ice, "even though they try to be cautious."
Xiangtan has had snow for the past 10 days. The main water pipe is
"broken again." There is no water for cooking right now but they do have
electricity, coal and blankets. They are still able to buy food but
prices have gone way up. Not all of the HTS nannies can get to work every
day. They are keeping the programs going as well as they can and make
sure that at least five nurturing nannies are there with the babies every
day, along with the institution's caregivers.
Jiangsu Province –
Changzhou has seen some heavy snows but the director reports that the
children are fine. The director says that he's doing his best to ensure
that the children do not suffer. Public transportation is crippled by the
snow and HTS nannies and teachers are waiting for hours to catch a bus for
home or even walking home in the snowy dark.
Nanjing reports no problems at all despite the heavy snows. I tried to
fly into Nanjing yesterday but it was not possible.
Anhui Province -
Chuzhou has both water and power. Only public transportation has failed.
HTS nannies and teachers are walking to work. They are leaving home extra
early to be there for the children.
Guangxi Province –
Guilin has two broken HTS heater/air conditioners in the Infant Nurture
rooms and they've asked us to replace. The rooms are very, very cold.
They ask for more soft matting for the floors and also snow boots for our
HTS nannies who've been slipping and falling in the ice and snow as they
come to work. They are so ill-equipped to handle severe weather.
Jiangxi Province –
Fuzhou lost power for a few days but now it is back to normal. The snow
stopped a couple of days ago but now is falling again. The directors and
HTS staff have gathered all the children into one big room to keep them
warm. They've bought New Years clothes for the children and will have a
party no matter how bad the weather. This year, however, the foster
parents will stay home to keep the children safe. The institution has
enough food and water. They want us to focus on those in more serious
trouble and ask us please not to worry.
Jiujiang says they've never faced such bitter weather. They desperately
need disposable diapers. Washable diapers cannot be dried. They need
warm clothes, shoes, gloves hats quilts and warm mats for the floors.
They need medicine for infant coughs and colds.
Hubei Province –
Wuhan suffers heavy snows but they still have power. Heaters are working
but there is no water for bathing. The local community has offered to
take children in for the Chinese New Year and the institution feels this
may be the best decision to keep them safe.
Huangshi reports that the freeze is so severe that all heater/air
conditioners have stopped functioning. They need quilts and warm clothes
for the children. They need disposable diapers. Several HTS nannies have
fallen on the ice on their way to work and they need medicine to treat
cuts and bruises.
Gathering these reports together makes me think about how careful we have
always been at Half the Sky to maintain our focus on nurture and education
programs. Ours is not a medical or relief organization. There are many
wonderful groups who do that work. Probably the primary reason we've been
able to accomplish so much and reach so many children is because we've
maintained our focus on our core mission -- providing nurturing care for
children who've lost their families..
But a moment like this really cannot be ignored. The tragedy of Hurricane
Katrina in the US taught us that no matter how wealthy a country might be,
its vulnerable citizens (old, poor, ill, and orphaned children) are the
ones who suffer most when disaster strikes. Even as China seems to be
entering the first world, a disaster like this is quite simply crippling.
We know that orphaned children will be among those who suffer the damage
I say this because I think we should break one of Half the Sky's rules
and, if there are sufficient funds raised in the Little Mouse Emergency
Fund, we should offer relief (water, food, diapers, quilts, clothing) to
any orphanage where children need help. Let's see how this goes. If
people are as generous as I think they might be, we will work with the
provincial Bureaus of Civil Affairs in every hard-hit community, and offer
assistance to all welfare institutions where there is need.
Please lend a hand, however you can. You can donate to the Little Mouse
Emergency Fund by calling us in the US at +1-510-525-3377 or in Asia at
+852- 2520-5266 or by visiting us at www.halfthesky.org. Once there, you
can click on "Donate Now"
or go to http://www.halfthesky.org/help/docs/usdonation-orderform.pdf to
download a form to mail or fax. Donations are tax-deductible in US,
Canada and Hong Kong.
Please forward this message and tell your friends and family.
I will be back with an update very, very soon.
Half the Sky Foundation