Connecting Sichuan
In May 2008, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck the Sichuan province in China. With over two minutes of shaking, the earthquake ended 87,150 lives and left an estimated five million people homeless.

The disaster could have turned the province into a poverty-stricken area, but it did not.

Immediately after the earthquake, international organizations such as the World Bank and many multinational corporations aided the Chinese government in restoring essential infrastructure, health and education services to pre-earthquake levels.

One of the major projects was Connecting Sichuan, a three-year, public-private partnership between the Sichuan Provincial People’s Government and multinational tech conglomerate Cisco.

As the project’s key stakeholder, Cisco contributed $45 million to the recovery, with a focus on providing universal healthcare in earthquake-damaged areas, demonstrating how a disaster might be turned into an opportunity for transformation and progress.

Even before the disaster, which devastated medical facilities, healthcare delivery was a problem in Sichuan. Sichuan’s per capita healthcare resources were below China’s national average.

In order to increase healthcare access to the rural population in earthquake-damaged areas, Connecting Sichuan established mobile health centers in Sichuan Province. Mobile health vehicles connect patients with medical experts located outside the immediate community. The mobile health centers employ advanced technology to improve patient care and build healthcare capacity.

Connecting Sichuan also built regional health networks to connect healthcare institutions in urban and rural areas and provide reliable connections to external organizations, such as the Provincial Department of Health and general hospitals in major cities. This shared resource model delivered improved services at much lower costs.

Starting in 2008, Connecting Sichuan successfully supported remote diagnoses between West China Hospital in the provincial capital of Chengdu and temporary field hospitals in Qingchuan and Dujiangyan, helping approximately 30 million people access reliable, affordable medical treatment.

Most importantly, the mobile health center in Sichuan lowered gaps in treatment quality between medical facilities based on geography and income. The project fostered local ownership, helping rural areas prosper.

A focus on healthcare solutions after the earthquake effectively drove workforce development and fueled job creation while attracting investment. The development of the mobile health center in Sichuan is compatible with the “Healthy China 2020” blueprint, which aims to deliver universal health care to all populations.

“Corporate social responsibility isn’t just about writing checks; it’s about looking at opportunities to develop solutions that address social needs in a responsible and transparent manner,” said Tae Yoo, Cisco Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs.

By helping disaster-wrought areas, Cisco gains much more than tangible economic benefits. All U.S. corporations should aspire to match the invaluable human impact Cisco had on Sichuan Province.

Yvie Yao

Photo: Flickr

China Under the WeatherHalf a million Chinese were evacuated from their homes in anticipation of the arrival of Typhoon Soulik. In Taiwan, the typhoon has already killed two people and injured 104 while one person still remains missing. According to the Chinese weather agency, the typhoon has been downgraded to a tropical depression, leading to waves of flooding. Villages like Xiamen, for example, were pounded by 40 cm of rain in 24 hours, while the village of Bailan was engulfed by 90 cm of water in 48 hours, leaving only chaos behind.

5,500 soldiers have been mobilized to help the inhabitants of the province of Fujian and neighboring Zheijiang brace for the upcoming typhoon, and according to the official Chinese news agency, about 31,000 boats have found shelter in harbors of the region.

The storm comes on the heels of a landslide that buried 30 to 40 people alive in Zhongxing, a city in the province of Sichuan, South-Western China.  Many parts of China have been inundated by torrential rains during the past week, and the province of Sichuan has been hit particularly hard. Numerous rivers in the region have overflowed their banks, destroying 3 bridges and more than 300 homes. Chinese officials estimate that 36,800 people have been evacuated from the Sichuan region, and the arrival of Typhoon Soulik is only making matters worse.

Meanwhile, the Qingdao coastal ecosystem has been plagued by the invasion of green sea algae for the past seven years. This year, the algae bloom started in mid-June and since then, authorities have cleaned up more than 20,000 tons of algae from beaches, converting it to animal feed. Although the algae are not toxic, it is very smelly and its density poses a threat to the Qingdao ecosystem.

The natural catastrophes China is currently facing remind us of the importance of environmental protection and sustainability programs. China, one of the most rapidly developing economies in the world, is the leading emitter of greenhouse gases, producing “23 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide” compared to 21 percent for the United States. In 2006 alone, China produced 6.23 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide versus 5.8 billion metric tons for the U.S.  The general increase in carbon dioxide emissions is mainly due to increased cement production and coal consumption, but also to the higher standards of living the Chinese middle class aspires to, based on the Western model.

The meteorological events occurring in China serve as a warning that, when Mother Nature decides to strike, it isn’t easy to fight back. Environmental preparedness and protection as well as emergency response aid are necessities for the survival of the human race.

Lauren Yeh
Sources: Le Monde
Photo: Flickr