By Francis Markus, IFRC, in Sichuan
Hundreds of survivors are getting much-needed medical attention from a newly built clinic, underscoring the Red Cross Society of China's commitment to reduce quake-related health vulnerabilities.
As he chats away, 77-year-old Chen Lunjie mentions that his son is coming home soon from the distant province where he is working. "He is going to rebuild our house," he says. It will be the first time the two will see each other since the May 12 earthquake.
The conversation takes place as he waits to see a doctor at a clinic recently built by the China Red Cross Foundation (CRCF) in his village to replace the old one that collapsed in the earthquake, along with Chen's house and those of most of his neighbours. CRCF is a fund-raising affiliate organization of the Red Cross Society of China.
Chen is now living in a tent, which does not help with the upper respiratory tract infection he is suffering from. "We have many similar cases among elderly people," says Dr. Xiao Shougang, at the CRCF clinic in Jiulong township, Sichuan. "And if it is not treated properly, it can turn into pulmonary edema, a disease which affects the heart and lungs and often causes swelling in patients' legs."
In Chen's case, while his breathing may be a little raspy, he says the treatment - an assortment of six different medicines, including antibiotics, a relaxant and vitamins - is helping more than the drugs he has tried from elsewhere.
The next man to see Dr. Xiao is also an elderly resident. He trod on a nail a few days ago, while he was trying to clear up the debris of his collapsed house. Dr. Xiao had already extracted the metal during a previous visit, but this time he is cleaning the wound and changing the dressing.
The new clinic building is just one of dozens being constructed by the Red Cross Red Crescent in the area, in order to restore a health infrastructure shattered by the quake. In several of the neighbouring villages, clinics built by the Hong Kong Red Cross are finished or nearing completion.
In this township of Jiulong and two neighbouring ones, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is working on detailed plans to help reconstruct more than 17,000 village houses. Bricks and concrete are just a part of what is needed to rebuild better and safer communities. Other essential elements needed are health, and water and sanitation projects to restoring livelihoods.
"We need to take an integrated approach to reduce the vulnerability of these communities, through community-based health, first aid and all the other strands of our work," says Dr Jeya Kulasingam, an IFRC health and psychosocial support delegate.