The devastating earthquake that struck Nepal and Tibet on April 25th has prompted many Chinese NGOs to react swiftly and collectively in what could be the first large-scale cooperation between Chinese NGOs in international disaster relief. While many Chinese NGOs have sent their rescue teams to the earthquake-stricken areas, the Zhuoming Disaster Information Center (卓明灾害信息服务中心), a volunteer organization that was set up after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and specializing in processing disaster-related information and coordinating resources, stayed in China to serve as an important supporting force for those working on the frontline. Hao Nan, director of Zhuoming, has been working with his team day and night for about two weeks now since the earthquake. According to Hao, the organization only has two full-time staff, but they quickly assembled an online volunteer team of more than 300 people. The team has been working effectively and publishing a comprehensive brief on the relief work every day since the earthquake struck.
The earthquake also provides opportunities for Chinese NGOs to work with international organizations. The Disaster Relief Coordinating Alliance of Foundations (基金会救灾协调会) set up the “Chinese NGO Coordinating Center for the 4.25 Nepal Earthquake” along with international organizations such as the UNDP (China office), the Asia Foundation, and Save the Children right after the earthquake. The Amity Foundation, a founding member of an international disaster relief alliance – the ACT Alliance, made the decision to participate in the earthquake relief effort after discussion with the Alliance’s secretariat in Geneva and it’s Nepalese partners.
However, problems have also been exposed in Chinese NGOs’ relief efforts. Hao points out that there is a highly developed international humanitarian relief working system, but most Chinese NGOs are unfamiliar with the system. Deng Guosheng, professor of school of public policy and management of Tsinghua University, stressed that Chinese NGOs should focus more on preventive work before disasters rather than relief work after disasters in the future.