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Diary of a village poverty alleviation official engaged in COVID-19 prevention by Zhao Binyu,March 10, 2020 Adjust font size:

“From Jan. 26 to 30, I began to think about novel coronavirus prevention and control measures that could be implemented in Songyao, which is the village that I work in, as the outbreak got worse. I wondered if disinfectant and surgical masks would be enough. I also thought about the effect that the epidemic would have on impoverished households. As a Party member, I should do something for them.

“On Feb. 1, I took the risk of being infected with the virus and visited Songyao Party branch officials and the village committee. These people were engaged in epidemic prevention and control measures and remained at their posts. I was not on the front lines in the battle against the novel coronavirus, but I was concerned for everyone and wanted to help the residents of the village that I work in. 

“On Feb. 2, some impoverished citizens and I were scheduled to plant vegetables at the local poverty alleviation greenhouses. I wondered if they were currently covered with plastic. Vegetable cultivation is a fundamental part of poverty reduction in Songyao, and I am a poverty alleviation official, so I must help them.

“On Feb. 3 and 4, I purchased 50 surgical masks, six protective suits, and 75 kg’s worth of disinfectant for Songyao’s residents.”

Han Xianliang used to work as an official in Fuxing district, Handan city, Hebei province. In 2006, he began working in Songyao village, Niantou township, Daming county, Handan and led a special poverty reduction team. He introduced a total of more than 8 million yuan of funding, established the largest poverty alleviation greenhouse in Daming county, built roads, and had a bridge repaired that had been dilapidated for many years. Han’s work is respected by Songyao’s residents.

The 2020 Spring Festival was remembered as a troubled time in China. Han spent it wondering if there were enough epidemic prevention supplies for the impoverished people that he works with, if they were still able to become more prosperous, and how they could prepare for the spring planting season in the greenhouses in their village.

City governments stipulated that poverty alleviation officials were required to return to work on Feb. 3. Han was worried about his epidemic prevention and poverty alleviation work and left for Songyao on the morning of Feb. 1. He brought instant noodles, dairy products, ham, and other snacks with him and gave them to local officials, which he visited with his team members. Han’s squad consulted with them about epidemic prevention and control measures. “As a Party member and poverty alleviation official, I should engage in work on the front lines and be aware of as much information as possible in order to live up to my title,” he declared.

On Feb. 3, Han arrived in Songyao and immediately began working by unloading supplies with the other staff members who were on duty. He also told them to put on protective suits first. After that they manned a control point and registered every pedestrian and automobile that they encountered. Han also patiently disseminated information about epidemic prevention policies. He helped staff put on protective suits and surgical masks at another prevention and control check point as well and began a dialogue with Liu Xianping, secretary of the village Party branch. He asked him if everyone in Songyao had registered with the government recently, wondered if the village had enough supplies, inquired about disinfection efforts in the area, and made other queries.

As a poverty alleviation official, Han worried about the 93 greenhouses in the village. He and a village official named Liu Zhiqing rushed to the structures after they finished working at a prevention and control point.

In 2016, Han helped initiate a project in which 10 ha’s worth of greenhouses were built in Songyao. It was the largest industrial poverty alleviation undertaking in Daming county at the time. Three years later, some of the greenhouses were already going unused, however. A company had previously rented the structures, grew vegetables inside of them, and employed local citizens. The organization decided not to extend the contract when it finished as a result of low profits and damage that the buildings had received over the course of the lease though. The committed poverty reduction appointee began to worry because working at the greenhouses had been a good way for Songyao’s impoverished residents to become more prosperous.

Han and the other officials that he works with put in a lot of effort and eventually solved the problem. They found new organizations that were willing to lease the greenhouses and formed a 130,000-yuan (US$18,733) maintenance fund.

The COVID-19 outbreak startled Songyao’s residents and the officials working there right when the greenhouse situation was improving.

Before the epidemic, Han would often call local officials and ask them to provide equipment for Songyao’s residents, such as tarps, plastic film, and iron wire, and various services. When he heard about the outbreak, he asked them to return and help plant vegetables in the greenhouses so that they could forge ahead as planned.

On the afternoon of Feb. 3, some of Songyao’s residents and officials were working at the greenhouses. Han told everyone to be sure to wear surgical masks and to pay attention to their health and safety. Local farmers were planting baby vegetables and were excited about the rest of the year.

An impoverished laborer standing near Han stated enthusiastically: “Secretary Han does a very good job. He has been in our village for five years. Everyone is aware of the effort he has put into Songyao and our greenhouses. We must praise him!”

“Han has returned to work, so we must continue to eliminate poverty and engage in epidemic prevention and control,” Liu Xianping said. 

The officials working in Songyao are taking appropriate prevention and control measures and are confident about their poverty alleviation pursuits amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

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