The National Working Committee for Children and Women (NWCCW) issued a national report on child development on May 27. The three-chapter report discusses the policies adopted and actions taken by the government to protect the legitimate rights and interests of children in the last few years. It also illustrates the improvements and progress made in children’s health and education, and pinpoints the problems and future challenges facing the nation on child development issues. The full text of the report follows:
Country Report on the Child Development in China, 2003-2004
I. Policies and Measures
II. Achievements and Progress
III. Problems and Challenges
Annex: Major Indices of Child Development in China
Since the beginning of the new century, the United Nations Millennium Summit and the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children were convened in 2000 and 2002 respectively. In 2003, the 6th East Asia and Pacific Ministerial Consultation on Children was held. The above meetings set global and regional goals for social and child development. In recent years, in accordance with the spirit of the United Nations and regional conferences as well as the global and regional action plans, the Chinese government has upheld the principle of “children first”, honored its commitment to WFFC (A World Fit for Children) goals and the Bali Consensus, earnestly implemented the National Program of Action for Child Development in China (2001-2010), much progress has been made in the survival, development, protection, and participation of children, and the eight regional goals set out in the Bali Consensus have been basically reached.
I. Policies and Measures
1. Further improve laws and regulations and promulgate policies to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the child
China has formulated the Constitution, the Criminal Law, General Principles of the Civil Law, Marriage law, Education Law, Compulsory Education Law, Protection Act for the Disabled, Law on the Protection of Minors, Law on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency, Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women, Maternal and Infant Healthcare Law, Law on Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, Adoption Law and Population and Family Planning Law. With a series of laws, regulations and policy measures on the survival, protection and development of women and children, China has established a sound legal system to protect the rights and interests of the child.
Focusing on the five key areas identified in the Bali Consensus, namely safe motherhood, nutrition, prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, child protection and child education, China has since 2003 revised relevant laws such as the Constitution and the Law on Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases. At present, China is now revising the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women, Law on the Protection of Minors, Compulsory Education Law, and Protection Act for the Disabled.
In order to translate the goal of promoting the survival, protection, development and participation of children into action, China has put into effect a series of regulations and policy papers for the development of women and children, including:
l Measures for Assisting Vagrants and Beggars with No Means of Support in Cities
l Provisions on Legal Aid
l Interim Measures for the Management of Foster Care by Families
l Regulations on Marriage Registration
l Proposals of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Further Strengthening and Improving Ideological and Moral Education of Minors
l Action Plan for Revitalizing Education for the Period of 2003 to 2007
l Decision on Further Strengthening Rural Education
l Program on Providing Nine-Year Compulsory Education and Eliminating Illiteracy among Youth and Adults in the Western Region
l Provisions for Further Compulsory Education for Migrant Children
l Proposals on the Reform and Development of Early Childhood Education
l Proposals of the General Office of the State Council on Strengthening Safety Management in Kindergartens, Primary and Middle Schools
l Action Plan for Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses from 2003 to 2005
l Action Plan on Maintaining Polio-free Status Nationwide for the Period of 2003 to 2010
l Proposals on Further Increasing Support to / and Aid for the Disabled in Poverty
l Proposals on Further Developing Border Areas and Bringing Prosperity to People
l Proposals on the Management of Internet Cafes and other Internet Access Service Business Establishments
l National Compulsory Standards for Child Toys
l National Technical Code for Toy Safety
l Instructions on Increasing Assistance to the AIDS Patients, the Family Members of the Patients and Orphans Who Live in Difficulties
l Instruction on Further Improving the Work in Areas of Education of Both Rural and Urban Minors with Special Difficulties
The formulation and implementation of these laws, regulations and policy measures have provided a favorite legal and policy environment for child development through education, health, child protection, disparity reduction and promotion of gender equality.
2. Improve mechanisms, fulfill responsibilities and implement the National Program of Action for Child Development
The Bali Consensus calls on countries to give “first priority” to “health, development and well-being of children and young people in national and local development plans”. To this end, the Chinese government has strengthened its leadership role in the implementation of the action plans. The National Working Committee for Children and Women under the State Council (NWCCW, an organization in charge of work for women and children, with relevant government departments and NGOs as committee members) has been enlarged from the original 29 to 33 members, with the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, Ministry of Construction, General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce as the new members. There are provincial, district and county-level working committees for children and women responsible for the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of the local child development plans. In recent years, working committees for children and women at all levels have further improved the working mechanism, increased personnel and financial resources.
The National Program of Action for Child Development in China (2001-2010) is aimed at promoting child development in China and also a follow-up action by China in meeting the global goals set at the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children and of the Bali Consensus. Besides the National Program, most of the provinces, 97.7 percent of the districts and 99.5 percent of the counties have their own child development plans.
With the help of the NWCCW, Ministry of Commerce and UNICEF, some counties in the western region have developed cross-sectoral action plans for child development planning. The working committees for children and women at all levels have coordinated and supported relevant departments to implement child development plans.
The goals set in the National Program are delegated to different departments, which developed their respective action plans and report annually on the implementation of the goals to the working committees for children and women of the same level so as to push forward women and child development at the local levels. The national and provincial working committees for children and women have established special leading groups to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the program. At present, the national and provincial groups are monitoring each year the progress of the progrmme implementation according to the monitoring system of statistics and indicators.
Between 2003-2004 with the support of UNICEF, the national and provincial bureaus of statistics have developed national-level monitoring database for development plan of action by applying to the DevInfo data software. In 2003, China developed and issued the review plans for the child development program. Currently, China is designing the working procedure of medium-term review which will be put into use nationwide in 2006. Some provinces have already developed local medium-term review plans and carried out medium-term monitoring and evaluation activities.
3. Increase resource allocation, take actions to tackle priority issues and difficult problems
（1）Reduction of maternal and children mortality
In order to effectively reduce maternal and child mortality rate in poverty-stricken areas in western part of China, and to improve their health status, NWCCW, together with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance, organized and implemented the project named “Reduce maternal and child mortality rate and eliminate neo-natal tetanus” (“Reduction and Elimination” in short).
From 2000 to 2003, 320 million yuan has been allocated from the central and provincial budget to implement this “Reduction and Elimination” project. It is through cross sectral coordination and collaboration, which include upgrading equipment of the health units, building staff capacity at both county and village levels, establishing and strengthening maternal first aid centers at the county level and the “fast track of referral” connecting county, rural area and village for hospital delivery to provide assistance to pregnant women in poverty-stricken areas, and advocating on hospital delivery, maternal and child mortality rate of the project counties has been reduced by an average of 28.79 percent, the incidence of neo-natal tetanus has been reduced significantly, containing the project county’s incidence of neo-natal tetanus below 1 per thousand.
By the end of 2003, the project has covered 16 provinces (regions and cities) and 440 counties of the Xinjiang Production & Construction Group, and benefited 150 million people. In 2004, 130 million yuan from the central (national) budget, supplemented by provincial budget for special purpose, has been allocated to continue implementation of the “Reduction and Elimination” project covering 1000 counties of the central and western part of China.
The “Maternal Health Expressway” project implemented jointly by NWCCW and the Women Development Fund of All China Women’s Federation (ACWF), provided project areas with vehicles, which made it possible to provide, free of charge, medical examination and treatment to people in poverty-stricken areas, distribute information, education and communication materials, conduct counseling and training on health education, carry out maternal and child disease surveillance, provide poverty relief, and to transport pregnant women and those of severe and acute cases in need of referral to hospitals of higher levels. As a result, healthy concept, health knowledge and health services have been disseminated and provided to women and children in poverty-stricken areas. A total of 210 vehicles for maternal and child health care service have been delivered to the project areas since the beginning of the project in July 2003. By September 2004, the number of beneficiaries of this project has reached more than 2 million people, and the number of pregnant women and those of severe and acute cases treated and rescued were more than 30 thousand.
In order to reduce child mortality caused by accident, Office of NWCCW has been working with UNICEF since 2003, and conducted inv
estigations on child injury by accident, and launched an initiative in some areas on “safe school, safe family, safe neighborhood” to protect children from accidental injury.
The Chinese Children’s Fund of ACWF has implemented a project named “Safe and Healthy Growing Up Plan for Chinese Children and the Youth”, the purpose of which is to help children and the youth “away from drop out, away from disease, away from crime, and away from injury” (“Safe and Healthy Project” in short). Up till now, the Project has provided urban communities with “safe and healthy homes”, set up 815 “safe and healthy classrooms”, as well as 210 “safe and healthy long-distance education classrooms” for primary and middle schools, especially in poverty-stricken areas, which benefited nearly 200,000 students and teachers.
（2）Prevention and control of HIV/AIDS
The Chinese government has attached great importance to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and has taken effective measures to tackle the problem. “China’s Mid- and Long-term Plan for Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS (1998-2010)”and “China’s Plan of Action for the Control and Prevention of HIV/AIDS (2001-2005)” have spelled out national goals for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
China has also launched a strategy focusing on “prevention as the key to the problem”. It calls for a combination of prevention with treatment to tackle the issue through an integrated approach”. National Working Committee for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment under the State Council was established in 2004 as the key taskforce for coordination on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
Special fund earmarked for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment is increasing on a yearly bases. About 270 million yuan has been added on top of the original 120 million yuan to provide free anti-virus treatment and care for HIV/AIDS infected patients in areas of high prevalence in 2003. The special allocation from the Central Budget for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in 2004 reached 810 million yuan. In 2004, 1 billion yuan national treasury bonds were issue to help mobilize funds in support of the establishment of rural clinics, including HIV/AIDS prevention pilot counties.
The State Council issued “Instructions on Concrete Steps for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment” in 2004, and held a national conference on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment; “Infectious Disease Prevention and Treatment Law” has been revised, providing legal framework for the implementation of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment; “Provisions on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment” has been brought into the national lawmaking process；In the area of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, the policy of “four free and one care” has been implemented since 2003, namely, provision of free of charge anti-virus drugs to HIV/AIDS patients, free anonymous HIV/AIDS test, free service to prevent mother-to-child transmission, free tuition fee for AIDS orphans, and care and support for poor people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
Ministries and agencies have also taken measures and formulated policies to implement HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in line with their specific mandate. The Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee and the Ministry of Health jointly selected “Topics for Advocacy on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment”，National Working committees for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment under the State Council developed “A Guide on National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Promotion and Education（2004-2008）”, Ministry of Health, together with National Population and Family Planning Commission and other 5 ministries, jointly released “Recommendations on the Implementation of Condom-use Promotion for HIV/AIDS Prevention”, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance jointly released “Measures on Anti-virus Treatment of HIV/AIDS and Voluntary Counseling and Testing”, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health jointly released “Instructions on Intensifying Education on HIV/AIDS Prevention in Schools”, and Ministry of Civil Affairs developed “Instructions to Increase Support to AIDS Patients, their Families and Orphans under Difficult Living Conditions”.
The issue of AIDS orphan has been accorded with great attention. Ministry of Civil Affairs allocated 20 million yuan from the Central Lottery Welfare Fund in 2004 to support AIDS orphans and families who take care of the AIDS orphans. Governments at different levels have taken various measures to help AIDS orphans, such as group adoption by welfare institutions, family foster care and adoption, and support to schooling. A national mother-to-child transmission prevention expert team has been established to conduct training; a project on prevention of mother-to-child transmission was launched to provide HIV virus testing and counseling service to perinatal women in areas of high HIV/AIDS prevalence.
NGOs have played an active role in this area. ACWF and Central Communist Youth League have collaborated with Ministry of Health to conduct “face to face” education activities for women and youth in order to disseminate knowledge about HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment, and to raise their awareness in this regard. ACWF conducted 480 training workshops for key staff at both county and village levels. The “face to face” education has benefited over 3.35 million women. Schools at different levels have intensified education programmes to youth on HIV/AIDS prevention. HIV/AIDS prevention education lessons are incorporated into junior school curricula with special education materials on healthy sexual behavior provided to students.
（3）Elimination of inequalities in development
The elimination of inequality is one of the areas that are given the first priority for child development in the “Siem Reap Declaration” which is about to be promulgated. This is also one major issue in the child development in China, where notable gaps still exist among different regions, between urban and rural areas, and between general population and vulnerable groups. The Chinese government has taken a series of actions to narrow these gaps.
Firstly, to improve education standard in poverty-stricken areas
The Chinese government has always regarded the universal nine-year compulsory education in poverty-stricken areas as one of the first priorities of its work. In September of 2003, the State Council conducted a national conference on education in rural areas, and released “Decisions on Further Strengthening Education in Rural Areas”. It clearly spelled out that, the coverage of universal nine-year compulsory education in western part of China should reach over 85 percent and the illiteracy rate of young and adolescents should be reduced to below 5 percent by 2007.
The Chinese government will continue to allocate specially earmarked funds for education project in poverty-stricken areas. Starting from 2003 and for the next 3 years, special allocation of 6 billion yuan is and will be made available to renovate all remaining dangerous buildings of junior and primary schools in central and western rural areas. In February of 2004, the State Council held a national conference aimed at making breakthroughs in the implementation of the “Two Basics” program in the western part of China；It issued the “National Plan on ‘Two Basics’ program in Western China”；Ministry of Civil Affairs and Ministry of Education jointly released “Instructions on further strengthening support to adolescent with special difficulties in urban and rural areas through education programs”；An additional 10 billion yuan special funds were made available to support the construction of boarding schools in rural areas of western China.
The central finance will establish subsidies for junior and primary schooling, governments at different level will establish special earmarked funds to further develop and improve the system to help poor children in rural areas to have access to compulsory education, and to take the strategies of “two exemptions and one subsidy” to students from poor families who are of compulsory education age group in rural areas (exemptions of miscellaneous fees, textbook fees, and provision of room and board subsidies) in order to prevent school dropouts due to family financial constraints. The central finance has supported free distribution of textbook for each semester in 2004 with 870 million yuan, benefiting 24 million students in central and western rural areas. The goal for year 2005 is to allocate 2.78 billion yuan to support 30 million students in central and western China.
Secondly, to take special measures to protect vulnerable children
l Protection for orphans of disabilities
In 2001, in cooperation with UNICEF, China Federation for the Disabled, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Security and the National Bureau of Statistics completed the first sample survey on children with disabilities at the age of 0-6 and obtained the prevalence rate, detection rate, geographic distribution and composition, degree of disability, current situation of rehabilitation and remaining needs, the result of which has provided reliable grounds for the Chinese government and other relevant departments to formulate policies, carry out prevention and early intervention, strengthen rehabilitation services, preschool education and protection of the rights of the disabled children, especially those in the rural areas.
In 2004, 200 million yuan from the Central Lottery Welfare Fund was allocated for child welfare sector. In addition, to help the disabled orphans in welfare institutions back to their families and the society, in 2004, the Chinese government launched a three-year program named “the Disabled Orphans’ Tomorrow” with 100 million yuan from the central finance and 600 million yuan mobilized by the Ministry of Civil Affairs to help about 10,000 disabled orphans to regain health through surgery and try to provide surgery to all disabled orphans in the welfare institutions who are fit for operation by 2006. From 2004 to 2005, China Federation for the Disabled implemented a project supported by the Special Lottery Welfare Fund to help the disabled to restore to normal lives.
The Project also plans to organize 18 national medical teams to perform surgery on 3,600 children with limb defect for free, distribute hearing aids to 5,600 poor deaf children, and provide subsidies to rehabilitation exercise for 48,000 poor deaf children. China Federation for the Disabled also helped more than 40,000 poor disabled children back to school through “Help Poor Children Back to School through Lottery Fund”, “Help Disabled Children and Support their Education” and “ Help Blind Children in the Middle and Western China Back to School” and some other projects.
l Protection for the migrant children
In addressing the problem of the migrant children caused by the large-scale movement of farmers from countryside to cities seeking job opportunities, office of NWCCW under the State Council and National Children’s Center jointly launched a “ Survey on Migrant Children in Nine Cities of China”. This survey studied the situation of migrant children’s health and nutrition, sanitation, education, rights protection and relevant policies developed for them, the result of which provided basis for policy makers.
In order to come up with new solutions to the problem of migrant children, the office of NWCCW under the State Council launched pilot projects on migrant children’s rights protection through cooperation with UNICEF, and developed a set of new models. Based on these new models, “the Experience Exchange Workshop on Rights Protection for Migrant Children in China” was held in 2004.
In 2003, the Department of General Office under the State Council issued “Suggestions on Further Improving the Education for Children of Migrant People Seeking Jobs in Cities” drafted by Ministry of Education and other relevant ministries, establishing the principle for the local governments and full-time public schools of the migration destination cities as key players in solving the problem of lack of education for the migrant children.
Ministry of Finance, and other ministries jointly issued a “Circular on Issues relating to Integrating Management Fees for Farmer Workers into the Regular Budget of the Local Governments”. It clearly puts forward that a “single fee system” should be implemented through-out the country which means that the migrant children can only be charged with the same fees as those charged to the local students for compulsory education.
l Protection for the street and homeless children
In May 2004, Ministry of Civil Affairs allocated 30 million yuan from the Central Lottery Welfare Fund to support construction of 84 rescue and protection centers for street and homeless children, and have also collaborated with UNICEF, Save the Children and other agencies in pilot projects to explore and promote effective models. Ministry of Civil Affairs held many meetings, studying issues on rescue and support, protection, education and legislation for street and homeless children. According to the decisions made at the “Coordinating Meeting on the Management of the Rescue and Support to Street and Homeless Children Program” held by the State Council in April 2004, Ministry of Civil Affairs now is working with relevant departments to conduct legislation research in preparation for constituting an Administrative Law on Assisting Street and Homeless Children.
l Protection for Girls
To guarantee girls’ legal rights, National Population and Family Planning Commission initiated a programme named “Care for Girls” to promote knowledge about law, popular science and reproductive health, nurturing a family environment and mechanism benefiting girls, provide girls and families with quality advocacy and service, protect their legitimate benefits, promote women’s development, gender equality and comprehensive management on population issues. China Children’s Fund under ACWF launched “Spring Bud Plan” raising funds from the whole society to help poor girls back to school and guarantee girls’ basic rights to education.
By the end of 2003, “Spring Bud Plan” collected 583 million Yuan from the general public, helped 1.4 million poor girls, conducted 4,600 “Spring Bud Training Classes”, and built 280 “Spring Bud Schools”. The ACWF also organized “Sino-Britain Capacity Building for Elder Girls Project” and “ Girls’ Priority Rights Project”, providing skills training for elder girls dropping out of school in western China and enhancing the awareness of local governors, officials, parents, children and the general public on problems facing girls, making efforts to reduce and eliminate discrimination against girls and safeguard the rights of the girl child.
The Chinese government has taken effective measures to prevent and severely punish crimes of trafficking of women and children. Currently, China has developed an effective law system of anti-trafficking based on Constitution, which consists of the Criminal Law and other relevant laws and regulations. In addition, China has also established an anti-trafficking mechanism led by governments, with cooperation from NGOs and support from international organizations.
To call on the whole society to join the “preventing trafficking” and “anti-trafficking” effort, relevant departments have advocated both intensively and extensively on knowledge about anti-trafficking to enhance the awareness of adolescents, migrants, and parents and capacity of relevant agencies on “preventing trafficking” and “anti-trafficking”.
To solve the problem of trafficking, departments of Public Security have made tireless efforts in fighting against trafficking of women and children. To provide assistance to the victims, Ministry of Public Security and ACWF together with other relevant departments have set up the “Center of Transfer, Training and Rehabilitation of the Rescued Women and Children”, helping the rescued children to locate their parents and providing service for and support to the rescued. In addition, the Chinese government has also cooperated with ILO, UNICEF and United Nations Inter Agency Taskforce on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (UNIAP) to implement “preventing trafficking” and “anti-trafficking” activities.
4. Improve sex disaggregated statistics
In 2004, in order to further strengthen China’s capacity to generate sex disaggregated statistics, the National Bureau of Statistics edited and published Women and Men in China—Figure and Facts, a booklet presenting sex disaggregated statistics. This is the third edition by the National Bureau of Statistics since the Fourth World Women’s Conference in 1995. During 2003 and 2004, the statisticians in 31 provinces of China have been trained to use the statistic software DEVINFO, and local data-base of NPA have been established in more than 20 provinces of China. The National Bureau of Statistics have also launched a project named “Indicator Research and Application on Gender Equality and Women Development” to incorporate women and child development goals into the overall goal of the country to build a moderate affluent society in an all around way. This will help reflect the status of gender equality and harmonious development for both men and women in the evaluation system for social activities.
5. Implement family education programs
ACWF of China and the Ministry of Education have jointly developed China Family Education Work Plan which defined principal tasks and specific goals; initiated a number of research activities with support from the National Academy of Family Education and local academies; edited publications to advocate on knowledge of family education; encouraged the parent schools to help parents in family education. At present, there are more than 320,000 parent schools in China, which are playing an important role in popularizing knowledge on family education and providing guidance a
nd services to parents.
In the past two years or so, through joint efforts of national and local governments and other relevant agencies at various levels, new progress has been made in health, education, legal protection and environmental protection for children in China.
Constant improvement of children's health status
The infant and under five mortality rates decreased from 30.0 per thousand and 35.9 per thousand in 2001 to 25.5 per thousand and 29.9 per thousand respectively. In 2003, maternal mortality rate was 51.3 per 100,000. The incidence of moderate and acute malnutrition rates of children under five years old was 2.7 percent, 0.31 percentage lower than that of 2001. In 2004, the national coverage of iodized salt reached 96.65 percent, basically realizing the goal of eliminating incidences of iodine deficiency disorders. The rate of child immunization with BCG, polio, DPT and measles vaccines has been maintained at a high level, with reported immunization rate of four vaccines all exceeding 97 percent. Hepatitis B vaccine has been officially included into the immunization program with a reported immunization rate of 96.7 percent.
The rate of universal child education continues to rise
By the end of 2003, the number of counties and county-level administrative divisions where the goal of universal nine-year compulsory education have been basically met and illiteracy among youth and adults been virtually eliminated have reached 2,658, covering 91.8 percent of the population. The net enrollment rate of school-age children, the five-year retention rate of primary schools, the gross enrollment rate of junior middle schools and the three-year retention rate of junior middle schools maintained at a high level of 98.65 percent, 98.80 percent, 92.7 percent and 91.96 percent respectively. The primary school enrollment rate for girls was above 99 percent. The enrollment of school-age children in migrant population has been improved. Senior high school education has been further expanded, with the gross enrollment rate reaching 43.8 percent. The enrollment rate of kindergarten children between 3 and 5 years old was 1.5 percentage points higher than that in 2001, reaching 37.4 percent. Meanwhile, 320,000 parent schools have been established.
Legal protection of the legitimate rights of children
Various kinds of violations and criminal act against children have basically been contained. According to statistics, between 2003 and 2004, public security agencies across the country cracked down on 2,311 child-kidnapping cases, rescued more than 8,000 child victims. Following the newly amended Ban on Child Labor, Ministry of Labor and Social Security and other relevant authorities intensified their efforts in cracking down on illegal practices. Children's rights to juvenile justice have further been protected. Relevant agencies including Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Civil Affairs and Chinese Federation for the Disabled took resolute actions against illegal practices that violate children's rights such as exploiting disabled children for begging.
The environment for child development continues to improve
In 2003, tap water became available to 58.18 percent of rural households, up 1.54 percentage points over 2002. The coverage of latrine has reached 50.92 percent, up 2.26 percentage points over 2002.
Children are actively participating in social development. Through morality and ideal building among minors, a sound public advocacy and social climate conducive to healthy development of the minors is now taking shape. At the same time, children and the adolescents are encouraged to pay more attention to the national development and progress, participate in social activities, and actively pursue an ideology for self improvement and positive value, enhance their sense of social responsibility, and make sure that their voices are heard by the public. Various departments are now actively promoting a society in favor of child development. Children's channels have been created at central and local television stations. 1,515 museums, 3,228 cultural activity centers (including mass performing art centers) and 2,709 public libraries across the country receive over 100 million young people every year.
Children living under harsh conditions receive special protection
In 2003, 192 specialized institutions on child welfare and child departments in nearly 600 welfare institutions across China provided shelter to 54,000 orphans and disabled children. Over 1700 rehabilitation centers for children with hearing and oral disabilities and over 10,000 rehabilitation centers for children with cerebral palsy, mental retardation and autism have been set up as part of China's support system for the disabled. Between 2003 and 2004, over 100,000 children who suffered from cerebral palsy, mental retardation and hearing disability have recovered in varying degrees through rehabilitation.
The percentage of enrollment in regular schools and specially designed classes accounts for 63.64 percent of the total admitted for special education and 66.23 percent of the total number of students in schools. The rights and interests of children of the migrant population, ethnic minorities, and especially the poor families have been protected. More street/homeless and disabled children receive social support and care.
III. Problems and Challenges
While China has virtually reached eight goals set forth in the Bali Consensus, the global goals such as the UN Millennium Development Goals and A World Fit for Children have set even higher standard for workers on child welfare in China with greater challenges. The Siem Reap Declaration identifies three priorities for regional child development and these are precisely where China's most prominent problems on child development stand.
1. Imbalanced development
As a developing country with a vast territory, China has a notably varying landscape across the country due to a wide range of factors of historic, geographic, economic and cultural in nature. The level of child development across the country is as imbalanced as its economy. By the end of 2003, China still has 29 million rural populations living in absolute poverty, mostly in western part of China. In 2003, the maternal mortality rate and infant mortality rate in remote areas were 5.8 and 4.4 times higher than those in coastal regions. The Infant and Maternal Mortality Rates were at least 2.5 and 2 times higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
Also, a significant higher incidence of child malnutrition has been recorded in rural and poverty-stricken regions than in cities. 372 counties in western part of China, most of which located in "less developed, minority-inhabited, remote and poverty-stricken" areas, still lack basic compulsory nine-year education and public sanitation, education and other resources. The social security system in rural areas still needs improving, so is the input and coordination efforts of the Chinese government in these areas.
2. Some imperatives need to be dealt with for child survival and development
1) Birth defects become increasingly acute
About 800,000 to 1 million people are born with defects every year in China. Besides death, disability as a result of birth defects has heavily burdened some households and the society. In recent years, there has been an increase in birth defects caused by environmental, genetic and or a combination of these factors. The removal of the compulsory pre-marital physical examination has in effect lowered the possibility of early warning against birth defects. Problems brought about by birth defects therefore are becoming increasingly troublesome.
2) HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment is still an arduous task
The HIV/AIDS situation in China features low prevalence nationwide but high prevalence in certain localities and for certain groups of people. The number of HIV/AIDS-infected people in China is estimated at 840,000 and the trend of the epidemic is on the rise. Incidence and death tolls are also increasing, affecting not only the high-risk groups but also the general public. Women patients and percentage of mother-child transmission is going up in proportion to the total population infected. The number of AIDS orphans is growing. All this indicates that China still shoulders an arduous task in areas of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
3) Discrimination against girls and sex ratio at birth continues to rise.
Due to constraints of the male-dominant traditional culture and men's role as bread-winners, families in some areas still have a strong preference for boys to girls. As a result, girls in some families are notably ill treated, less educated and malnourished compared to their male counterparts. The sex ratio at birth is showing signs of continued growth. The results from the third, fourth and fifth national census in 1982, 1990 and 2000 indicated the ratio to be 108.5, 111.3 and 116.9 respectively.
4) The rights and interests of vulnerable children are yet to be effectively protected.
In China's social and economic transformation, there are still problems remaining in regard to the protection of children's rights and interests. For example, trafficking of women and children, coercing children into begging or doing dangerous stunts, illegal use of child labor and deserting babies. In addition, the social support to and care for street and homeless children, the protection of rights and interests of migrant women and children, and child injured by accident still call for more effective measures and solutions.
3. Child participation and development still require further attention
In the process of making laws, regulations, policies and action programs, the principle of putting children first is still not fully reflected, children's interests and needs are not taken into full consideration, and children's voices are not sufficiently heard. Children's interest in and enthusiasm for active participation in economical, cultural and social activities have not been fully tapped. On many issues concerning their own interests and development, children are still passive recipients and objects to be modeled rather than active and self-conscious participants.
4. Responses and recommendations
1) To further strengthen legal construction and protect legitimate rights of children
Relevant laws and regulations need to be formulated and improved. Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Minors, Law on the Protection of Women's Rights, Law on Compulsory Education and Law on the Protection of disabled will be amended according to the new situation and problems in the economic and social as well as child development. The governments and relevant departments at various levels should have a stronger sense of legal responsibility and intensify supervision and enforcement of efforts so as to safeguard children's legitimate rights, and crack down on criminal act violating children's legitimate rights. Meanwhile, we should further strengthen advocacy on legal matters to raise the public awareness to ensure healthy growth of children and young people, and conduct public education campaigns of various forms on a broad basis so as to create a harmonious social environment for the development of children and young people.
2) To push forward the implementation of China's National Program of Action for Child Development for 2001-2010 and promote a balanced approach to development
The national Program of Action for Child Development for 2001-2010 defines China's national goals for child development in four areas, namely, healthcare, education, legal protection and environment. These goals are both in line with the current situation, the requirements of child development in China and the global goals for child development established at the 2002 UN Special Session on Children. The implementation of the Program is a follow-up action taken by China to realize the global goals of child development as laid out at the UN Special Session. The focus of the implementation will be in rural areas, especially poverty-stricken areas in western part of China and minority-inhabited areas. The key efforts are to solve problems related to child health, education and upbringing in poor areas and enhance the overall quality of children in poverty-stricken areas in western part of China.
3) Continue and increase policy support to the western region so as to bridge and narrow regional disparities.
Efforts will continue to implement the "elimination and reduction" programs, such as to increase financial input in women and child healthcare undertakings in the western region through the implementation of the "Development Plan for the Rural Health Services System", improve healthcare network for women and children, intensify advocacy on health education, strive to reducing maternal, infant and under five mortality rates, and provide better nutrition and healthcare to children in these areas. Budget for education in that region will be augmented on a continuous basis while programs covering "compulsory education in poverty-stricken areas" and "advanced distant learning for primary and secondary schools in the rural areas" will be put into place.
In compulsory education, priority will be given to promote the compulsory nine-year education in areas with a high concentration of ethnic minorities and attention will focus on fulfilling the commitments spelled out in the "Two Basics" program on education and literacy. Efforts will be directed at strengthening capacities on the part of local governments in the region in fund-raising, planning, management and project implementation, thus enabling women and children to become the most important beneficiary in the course of economic and social progress while narrowing the gap between the western and the eastern region in terms of women and child development.
4) Concrete measures of treatment and control will be taken so as to stem the prevalence and spread of HIV/AIDS.
Efforts will be continued in adopting effective measures and enforcing strengthened supervision and inspection in order to further advance the work on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. All walks of life will be mobilized to take an active part in HIV/AIDS prevention and control effort applying effective intervention models to enhance the capacity at the grass-root level in HIV/AIDS treatment, and provision of care to the infected and the patients. Work will be launched in controlling mother-to-child transmission, assisting and properly accommodating AIDS orphans, as well as preventing and containing the prevalence and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
5) Improving services in pre-marital medical checkup and perinatal healthcare so as to reduce the incidence of birth defects.
Premarital medical checkup serves as the first and foremost frontline of protection in ensuring the safety of mothers and infants, reducing birth defects and improving the quality of the newborn population. The Chinese government will intensify comprehensive early intervention measures such as pre-marital healthcare, prenatal care, child care and increase advocacy and promotion of knowledge about the necessity of having pre-marital medical examination and other healthcare services, and improve the quality of maternal heath care services to ensure effective perinatal healthcare and safe delivery, reduce birth defects and enhance the quality of the new-born babies.
6) Take wide-ranging measures to safeguard the rights and interests of vulnerable children.
Greater social support and care should be affordable to children living under unfavorable conditions, in particular, homeless children, children from single-parent families and extremely poor families and to children with disabilities. The study on new ways to address the concerns of migrant children and women should continue, for example, their access to education, healthcare, personal safety, labor safety, proper compensation and social security. Measures should be taken to curtail the rising sex ratio, crack down on trafficking, mutilating and disserting baby girls, and prohibit illegal identification of baby's sex and abortion due to parents' gender preference.
Public education campaigns need to be intensified to promote gender equality, and new social climate that advocates fewer but better births. Families with baby girls should enjoy higher economic and social status. Attention should be paid to the "home-alone children" whose parents are out working and whose healthcare, education and protection are left to chances. Necessary interventions should be made to keep these children safe from accidents and injuries.
The Chinese government will spare no effort and continue unswervingly with its global and regional commitments to child development. Guided by "A World Fit for Children" and the spirits enshrined in the "Siem Reap D
eclaration", China endeavors to remove any inequality in child development, encourage active child participation, promote the survival, protection, participation and development of children and make unremitting efforts to bring a better future to Chinese children.
(China.org.cn May 30, 2005)