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Project Set up to Help Children Suffering from Leukaemia
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A mother from east China's Anhui Province knelt down in tears in front of hundreds of people and cameras.

The scene was an unexpected one at yesterday's launching ceremony of a project named "Saving Children With Leukaemia," but demonstrated Zhang Changfeng's compassion for her two sick sons.

One of her sons Hu Shuzhang 14, was diagnosed with a highly malignant tumour in October and her other son Hu Shuai, 13, was diagnosed with leukaemia, a type of blood cancer, at almost the same time.

The burden is obviously too much for a rural family with an annual income averaging around 4,000 yuan (US$500). A fund of 100,000 yuan (US$12,330) that came from relatives and the public has almost been used up. "It almost killed me," the mother said, "especially when my younger son told me he wanted to give up medical treatment for his brother."

The two boys decided who should go to Beijing for the best treatment by drawing straws, and the younger one cheated to save his brother. He placed two "straws" both with the word "treatment" on for his older brother to choose.

His brother therefore chose a straw with the word "treatment", and so headed to Beijing. He is currently being treated at Beijing's Jishuitan Hospital.

"I could never have imagined that the younger of my boys would do such a thing," the mother said. "We don't have money, but I would give up my life for his. I cannot watch him die."

However, she saw a glimmer of light, as little Hu Shuai is to become the first child to benefit from the new project by receiving free treatment.

"I knelt down because I wanted to express my thankfulness to all the people who have offered their support," she said.

The project has been jointly launched by the Chinese Red Cross Foundation, major media organizations that include China Daily, enterprises as well as 100 websites. It is calling for donations from the public to help millions of poor children who suffer from leukaemia like Hu Shuai.

Official figures show that there are at least 4 million Leukaemia patients in China, and half of them are children. "The biggest problem they face is not how to treat the disease, but where the money is going to come from," said Wang Rupeng, secretary-general of the Foundation.

Wang said on average, a patient needs at least 200,000 yuan (US$24,700) to cure the disease. If a bone marrow transplant is required, about 400,000 yuan (US$50,000) will be needed.

"Obviously, most families cannot afford this," he said. "So they give up."

The project hopes to collect public donations of at least 50 million yuan (US$6.2 million) to help 1,000 children. Each child is expected to receive aid amounting to 50,000 yuan (US$6,200), according to the project scheme.

Hu Shuai will arrive in Beijing this week to receive free treatment at Beijing Blood Disease Hospital of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine.

Su Fengzhe, president of the hospital, said that in China, more than 70 percent of lymphatic leukaemia patients could be cured, and that type of leukaemia is the most common one among children.

(China Daily December 30, 2005)

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