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China quake sends 1.4 million back into poverty: report

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) July 15, 2008
Up to 1.4 million people in remote villages in southwest China have slipped back into absolute poverty after the May 12 earthquake flattened their homes, state press said Tuesday.

"In many counties, the hard-won anti-poverty achievements in the previous two decades disappeared within seconds," the China Daily quoted Fan Xiaojian, head of the central government's poverty alleviation office, as saying.

"The damage is so massive and many farmers have reversed back into poverty again."

Fan was referring to efforts in China to bring millions of people out of absolute poverty in recent decades, an achievement that has been widely praised by international organisations such as the United Nations.

"Absolute poverty" refers to existing below the income needed to secure the bare essentials of food, clothing and shelter.

The May 12 earthquake which devastated wide swathes of Sichuan province left nearly 70,000 people dead and more than 17,000 missing, destroying the homes of up to five million people.

In order to help the 1.4 million people who have dropped back into absolute poverty in more than 4,000 remote villages, the government needed to channel funds into the region that could help rebuild basic shelter and services, the report said.

A total of 12 billion yuan (1.75 billion dollars) would be needed over the next three years, with the government pumping in three million yuan into each of the 4,000 villages, the paper said.

Before the earthquake, some 2.1 million people were living in poverty in Sichuan, the paper said, citing official figures.

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Asia sets stage for disaster relief exercise with key powers
Washington (AFP) July 12, 2008
After much debate, Asia is finally expected to agree to hold its first civilian-military disaster relief exercise with key powers such as the United States, Russia and the European Union.

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