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Red Cross: More Aid Needed For Earthquake Victims in India - 2002-01-28

One year after a massive earthquake devastated the western Indian state of Gujarat, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is issuing a new appeal for $30 million in additional aid for the state. The relief agency says the funds are needed to help rebuild health facilities and set up a network to help Indians cope more effectively in the event of another earthquake.

The earthquake that struck Gujarat registered 7.9 on the Richter scale. It killed about 20,000 people and injured 166,000 others. One year later, its effects are still being felt.

In an interview with VOA, Dr. Adelheite Marschang, who is treating people in Gujarat, described what they are going through. "Headaches, sleeping, high blood pressure, anxiety, nightmares, and the constant and still persistent fear of another earthquake," she said. "There are constant aftershocks happening. The latest one was a week ago of the severity of 4.4. People are really afraid that another earthquake of that magnitude can happen."

Dr. Marschang says the Red Cross is training health workers to deal with the psychological impact of the disaster. It is also setting up a network of community health workers to provide health education and first-aid training to those living in hazardous areas.

The earthquake is not the only natural disaster to hit Gujarat. In the last three years, the area has also endured a drought and a cyclone.

Red Cross spokeswoman Pamela Davie says the organization is working to help Indians build structures that will survive just about anything. "We just built a prefabricated 220 bed hospital for the community serving the Kutch district, which was the worst affected in Gujarat, that is both earthquake and cyclone-proof," she said. "As well, we have sister national societies from the Belgian, German and Austrian Red Cross who are working on a private housing project. We are actually working with communities to improve their knowledge and capacity to build earthquake-resistant and cyclone-resistant housing."

A Red Cross officer in Geneva, Titiana Tosic, says the training the organization is carrying out in Gujarat will provide the model for disaster preparedness throughout India. "We are planning to use the Gujarat as the so-called nursery for multiplying and replicating those training modules in other disaster-prone states in India over the next two years," she said.

Ms. Tosic says Red Cross volunteers in India will provide the backbone for disaster preparedness and response. While Red Cross officials are confident they can help Indians be better prepared for another quake, one of their biggest concerns now is the temporary housing being built by people made homeless by last year's earthquake. These shelters, the officials say, will not withstand another disaster.