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China's Red Cross Warns of Dwindling Funds for Flood Victims - 2004-08-09


China's Red Cross has appealed for donations to help the country's millions of flood victims. Heavy rains in recent months have left many people homeless in at least 14 provinces.

The head of China's Red Cross, Yang Xusheng, told a news conference in Beijing Monday that funds for flood victims are dwindling.

China has yet to see the peak of its flood season, but the Red Cross estimates that 78 million people have already been affected and more than 400 killed. Mr. Yang says most of the victims are poor and living in remote areas.

"In order to beef up our relief activities for the victims, we need to mobilize additional resources from the public," he said.

The Red Cross says donations soared four fold last year to help victims of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. But this year, Mr. Yang says donations are falling far short of the disaster's magnitude.

"We are also experiencing donor fatigue because China is a very disaster prone country and every year. We do fund raising to help victims," he said.

The southern and northeastern parts of China often see severe flooding. This year, the worst inundated areas are Guanxi, Hunan, Henan, Yunnan and Hebei provinces. At the end of last month, the Red Cross had released close to one million dollars in aid to 14 provinces.

The Red Cross says flood destruction is particularly hard on farmers, plunging them into deeper poverty. The aid organization says it costs as much as $200 to replace an ox in a country where rural incomes average only $162 a year.

The Chinese government has provided cash assistance to the victims and urged local officials to step up flood prevention measures.

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