United Nations Children's Fund Regional Director Ms. Mehr Khan said that although China had done very well in child development, it was now facing new challenges, including the rights of girls, HIV/AIDS prevention and care and unbalanced development.
Ms. Mehr Khan made the remarks Tuesday at the China and United Nations Children's Fund Mid-term Review Meeting in Beijing.
After hearing speeches made by Chinese officials from the Ministry of Commerce, Ms. Khan congratulated China's achievements on child survival, development and protection.
According to Wang Xinggen from the ministry, child health in China has been continually improving. Overall estimates by the government indicate that infant and under-five mortality has declined. The maternal mortality rate has decreased to 50 per 100,000 live births. The nutritional situation of children has been improving significantly. Malnourishment is mainly found in rural areas; there is almost no malnourishment among urban children, and obesity is becoming a new worry. Child education has universally heightened. Enrolment rates in primary education have reached 99 percent in China. The female illiteracy rate has dropped by 10 percentage points.
China has formulated various national policies to protect children's rights. Laws and regulations have been made on child laborer and human trafficking. The enabling environment for children has been further optimized. Children in difficulty have now special protection. China has set out to assist and protect street children also. The country has invested in building assistance and protection centers for its street children.
However, Ms. Mehr Khan pointed out that there are still serious child problems in China, such as girls' rights, HIV/AIDS prevention and care and unbalanced development.
Girls who are left out of school are vulnerable to violence, exploitation, trafficking, and poverty. They are more likely to die while giving birth, and are at greater risk of disease, especially HIV. UNICEF called on China to focus on getting all girls into school and making sure they complete a quality basic education. Ms. Mehr Khan gave an example of the AIDS crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has more than 29 million people living with HIV. She also warned that Asia is becoming the second Africa.
The current estimate of the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in China is over a million, which would imply a prevalence of almost 0.1 percent. Projections by the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine point out that 7 million people could be living with HIV by 2005 and 10-15 million by 2010. The Chinese government must focus on the HIV issue.
Statistics show about 50 percent of the youth in China still do not know the three ways to contract the HIV virus and consequently, China should invest more on AIDS education to its young.
Due to historical, geographical and cultural reasons, there are great disparities in economic development among different regions, which have led to disparities in the development of children. There are still millions of poor people living in China, mostly distributed in western parts.
The infant and maternal mortality rate in western regions is all far higher than in coastal areas, and the degree of attainment in education is clearly lower than in coastal regions. The gap between urban and rural areas in this regard is wide.
Ms. Mehr Khan believes that with the help of international community and organizations, China will achieve its goals in child development in the future and it will build a more caring home for its children.
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Wu Nanlan, November 18, 2003)