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NGOs Help Poverty-stricken People in China
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have a vital role to play in fighting against poverty, officials from the sector said.

Wang Xingzui, vice-director with the China Foundation for Underdeveloped Areas, said it and other non-government and non-profit agencies supplemented government efforts to help the needy.

From 1994 to 2000, NGOs poured at least 50 billion yuan (US$6 billion) into projects to lift thousands of people out of poverty.

Wang's foundation has amassed more than 800 million yuan (US$96 million) since it was set up, benefiting about 20 million farmers through projects that help them help themselves.

NGOs' flexibility allowed them to respond quickly, Wang said.

Huang Haoming, executive director of China Association for NGO Cooperation, said that NGO had found many efficient ways to reduce poverty.

Micro-financing programs help farmers get rich by lending them small sums of money, said Huang.

Many such projects have been launched in western regions, but problems arise when farmers cannot pay off their loan debt. In many cases, as few as 30 per cent can repay the debt, Huang said

Huang said that since his association was founded in 1987, about 60 foreign NGOs have provided about 270 million yuan (US$32.5 million) of aid to help destitute Chinese farmers. With additional funding of 190 million yuan (US$22.9 million) from local governments, 272 projects have been implemented in 78 poverty-hit counties nationwide.

Apart from NGOs, other international organizations have also been active in relieving poverty among farmers.

They include the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program and the International Labor Organization.

The World Bank, China's first and largest international partner in fighting poverty, has provided nearly US$35 billion to support more than 220 projects in the country over the last 20 years.

China-World Bank projects in southwest China have cost a total of US$610 million and have benefited more than 8 million people from nine provinces and autonomous regions.

Juergen Voegele, sector coordinator for Rural Development under the World Bank's resident mission in China, said China still has much to do before people in poor areas can live a comfortable and well-off life.

He said China's poverty reduction work could be enhanced by forging stronger links with other governments, academic and civic organizations.

World Bank sources said the bank will lend between US$1 billion and US$1.5 billion annually to China, the largest recipient of World Bank loans, over the next several years.

Much of the funds will go to China's interior provinces, to needy urban and rural areas, and to environmental and social projects.

Jeurgen said China could make its aid money work harder if its projects to improve productivity in upland farming areas, where most of China's poor are subsistence producers, were funded over several years and involved local communities more.

(China Daily May 21, 2003)

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