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Helping local organizations respond as best they can

China, April 21, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps  </span>
    An elderly Tibetan woman passes a damaged building on a street in Yushu. Photo: Mercy Corps
  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps  </span>
    A well-organized distribution line outside of Jiegu. Photo: Mercy Corps

Please note: this is the second dispatch piece by Yue Yao, Program Manager with Mercy Corps China, who is currently in Qinghai. I am receiving and posting his notes while he's in the field.

Yushu County is normally a picturesque area, located in the eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau, about 3,800 meters above sea level. However, it is also one of China’s nationally recognized “poverty counties,” and the horrific earthquake last week almost totally destroyed this beautiful little corner of the Tibetan region.

I have been deployed in Yushu to help respond to the earthquake with some local non-governmental organization (NGO) staff. These particular groups heading to Yushu though had no previous agency experience on disaster response and understandably had limited knowledge about how NGOs can operate in an emergency setting. So one of the first things Mercy Corps was able to do was provide emergency training for local teams.

On the third day after earthquake, I had arrived in Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province. There were many people from Qinghai, Tibet and the U.S. who’d already flooded into the local NGO office trying to work out a team response. As Mercy Corps' Disaster Management Capacity Building Program Manger, I was invited to do a quick emergency response training to help the attendees structure a response team and mechanism.

When in Yushu, the teams would have to face very difficult situations, much like in other big disasters. Introducing some of the basic and hands-on tools, such as the Sphere Standards (Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response) would become very useful in helping the various teams to operate.

I now see these teams putting some of the tools from Mercy Corps to use, from recording relief supplies received each day, to following Mercy Corps’ practices on community distribution. I am proud to be helping the local agencies become the best responders than can be.