‘Difficult experiences in childhood can have lifelong consequences’
Hangzhou – China will give priority to poverty reduction and development issues for children as part of its rural poverty alleviation strategy during the next 10 years, said a senior official.
Lifting children out of poverty will effectively break the cycle of poverty, preventing it from continuing in the next generation, said Zheng Wenkai, deputy chief of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.
Zheng made the remarks at the country’s first Child Poverty and Development Forum, which was held in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang province, on Thursday.
However, there are no official statistics showing how many children live in poverty in China.
A survey on young people in 18 counties of five provinces including Anhui and Fujian in 2010 revealed that 4.9 percent of the respondents live in poverty. The research was conducted by Peking University and Beijing Normal University in 2010.
China has a population of 309 million under the age of 18, of which 60 percent live in rural areas.
The survey findings suggest there are an estimated 9 million minors living in poverty in rural China, said Song Wenzhen, director of the children’s department of the National Working Committee on Children and Women.
China has made remarkable achievements in improving children’s living conditions, as the country’s child mortality rate has dropped by 67 percent in the past two decades and it has realized universal basic education, said Gillian Mellsop, representative of the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in China.
Despite the encouraging development, China also faces many challenges in its efforts to create a poverty-free childhood for all children.
A considerable number of poor children, especially those in the countryside, still struggle with malnutrition and even hunger.
“Sometimes, I can’t pay attention in class in the afternoons because I feel starved since I often don’t have lunch,” said Liu Yan, a 12-year-old student from Hongban village, Southwest China’s Guizhou province.
The girl told China Daily that corn was the only staple food at her family’s dining table. Due to the distance between her home and school, most of the time she was not able to rush home for lunch.
“Poverty experienced in childhood may have lifelong consequences,” said Mellsop from UNICEF.
She urged China to take a multi-dimensional approach, which combines intervention with education, health and other social services, to address child poverty.