Relief worker praises locals | South China Morning Post
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  • Feb 28, 2015
  • Updated: 2:53pm

Relief worker praises locals

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 1996, 12:00am

Foreign relief workers should maintain flexibility when working with their 'highly professional and experienced' mainland counterparts, an international relief expert said.


Speaking during his trip to help flood victims in southeastern China, Geoffrey Prescott, Medecins Sans Frontieres head of mission in Beijing, reminded his colleagues of the importance of identifying the genuine needs of victims.


'We are here to support. We should not come in with our own agenda,' Mr Prescott said.


'It's a tradition in international relief work that people always come in to do their own things. We can't, and need not, do this in China.' He stressed that detailed surveys and co-operation with local relief teams and authorities were indispensable.


'For anyone who comes to work in China, you should be very open-minded and flexible and try to help in different provinces. Their needs vary from place to place.' Instead of merely bringing in donations or relief materials, international aid agencies should send hi-tech and medical specialists to help relieve natural disasters, Mr Prescott said.


Referring to the work of tens of thousands of Chinese Red Cross and health care workers in flood-stricken areas, he said they were generally well-trained and organised.


'Professionally, they are very good. They know how to prioritise their needs, instead of panicking. They chose to open roads and railways first,' he said.


'It's important because instead of trying to waste time preparing stocks and moving people around, it's always better to get access to the areas first. They did it at astonishing speed.


'Even in Western countries such as those in Europe, in disasters with such a big scale, it takes a lot longer to mobilise so many resources.' Mr Prescott said some outsiders might have mistaken the fact that China often needed relief aid from foreigners as indicative of a lack of human and financial resources.


'It's unfair to say this,' he said. 'The biggest problem is the scale [of the disaster] itself. Chinese relief teams are very huge and capable, but I think to everyone, problems of such a big scale are still hard to deal with.'

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