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Charity Fund Set Up to Help the Rural Poor

The Chinese Red Cross Foundation yesterday launched a charity programme that is aimed at providing aid to poor farmers and children who can barely afford their medical bills.

At the start-up ceremony yesterday in Beijing, the foundation, a non-profit-making organization, received a total of 1.7 million yuan (US$210,000) in donations from enterprises and individuals.

Tang Shengwen, deputy director of the foundation, said the money raised through the "Red Cross Angel Programme" will be used to help the rural poor afford medical insurance.

Citing an official national survey in 2003, Tang said that nearly half of the rural residents who need medical treatment do not even go to see a doctor and that 30 per cent of those who should stay in hospital remain at home because of the costs.

Furthermore, about 80 per cent of China's 900 million rural people do not have any medical insurance. As a result, many rural families fall into utter poverty when one of their family members falls ill, even if the treatment only needs a small operation, Tang said.

There is a popular saying in rural areas that the cost for an appendectomy will mean a family's farm work for a year will have been in vain.

Wang Rupeng, secretary-general of the foundation, said that although farmers' incomes have been on the rise in recent years, the growth rate is rather slow. At the same time, drugs, outpatient care and the costs for hospitalization have soared.

"More than 80 per cent of China's 1.3 billion population are rural residents. But the government medical expenditure on them only accounts for 20 per cent of the total," Wang said.

Wang said that the new programme plans to help at least 10,000 poor farmers get medical insurance in the country's rural co-operative medical scheme, which is regarded as the ultimate solution to ensuring farmers get basic and timely treatment when they fall ill.

The money raised through the programme will also help local governments improve the medical equipment of hospitals and clinics at township and village levels, Wang added.

"Moreover, the programme will subsidize rural doctors to receive professional training," Wang said. "A donation of 3,000 yuan (US$370) can pay for a rural medical worker to undergo 10 days of training."

(China Daily August 11, 2005)

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