Hu Jintao has made his first visit back to the earthquake zone since the disaster struck in May after it emerged that millions of people were still homeless.
Only a handful of the five million people whose homes were destroyed by the strongest earthquake to hit China in half-a-century have managed to rebuild before the arrival of winter.
Piles of bricks and bags of cement line the road to Beichuan, near the epicentre of the quake, as peasants desperately try to erect structures that will shield them from the elements. The temperature in this mountainous region has already dipped to zero and will fall to as much as minus 20 degrees centigrade in the coming months.
As he surveyed the refugee camps, where the cold weather has triggered flu outbreaks, Mr Hu said: “The most important thing is to make sure all people are housed, have clothes and quilts to resist the cold, have enough food for the winter and coming spring and [that] medical services and epidemic prevention are in place.”
Hong Xiuqiong, 34, lives in a shack made of reclaimed wood and with a straw roof. “The government has stopped paying out the relief money and we have barely any food,” she said. “We only have a plastic sheet to wrap around the hut to try to make it waterproof.”
Mrs Hong, who lives with her baby, her husband and his family in the tiny hut, said she thought her 90-year-old father-in-law “may not make it”. She added: “I was tempted to commit suicide myself after the earthquake.”