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Chen's story

Elderly patient outside medical centre© InfoHundreds of survivors are getting much-needed medical attention from a Red Cross clinic, showing the Red Cross’ commitment to reducing vulnerability to quake-related health problems.

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 earthquake in May.

The conversation takes place as he waits to see a doctor at the new clinic in his village, built to replace the old one that collapsed in the earthquake, along with Chen’s house and those of most of his neighbours.

Medical treatment

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 clinic in Jiulong township, Sichuan. “And if it is not treated properly, it can turn into pulmonary oedema, 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 trying to clear up the debris of his collapsed house. Dr Xiao extracted the metal during a previous visit, but this time he is cleaning the wound and changing the dressing.

Safer communities

The new clinic building is just one of dozens being constructed by the Red Cross in the area, in order to restore a health infrastructure shattered by the quake.

In this township of Jiulong and two neighbouring ones, the Red Cross 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 are water and sanitation projects, and restoring livelihoods.

“We need to take an integrated approach to reduce the vulnerability of these communities to future disasters, through community-based health, first aid, disaster management and all the other strands of our work,” says Dr Jeya Kulasingam, a Red Cross health and psychosocial support delegate.

This story was provided by the  International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Read more stories from survivors of the China earthquake

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