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Leukaemia Victim in Payment Crisis
Zhang Guozhong still cannot accept the fact that his 9-year-old daughter has leukaemia as he lies sleepless at night.

"Why is it my daughter? She is only a child. Why not me?" asked Zhang, a 45-year-old farmer living in the suburbs of Changchun, capital of Northeast China's Jilin Province.

On June 5, Zhang Xin was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) -- one of the most dangerous blood cancers among children under 10.

ALL spreads rapidly and needs aggressive treatment owing to its acute nature. The patient has less than a 10 percent chance of survival if treatment is delayed, according to Xiao Zhongping, director of the blood section office of Jilin People's Hospital.

"Fortunately, it is also one of the most treatable forms of cancer among children," he said.

"If everything goes right, the child has a 70 percent chance of being cured."

But he worried the parents may not go ahead with treatment because of the "sky-high" medical costs.

Zhang Xin has started chemotherapy and the first stage of treatment is about 5,000 yuan (US$604), which has eaten up half of the money the family has raised.

A complete course of treatment would cost 300,000 yuan (US$36,000), according to Xiao.

The family has meagre assets of 0.66 hectares of plough land, two oxen and a thatched cottage.

The family's annual income is about 3,000 yuan (US$362) which includes corn planting, working on a building site and selling the ox.

"I have sold everything valuable in my house and borrowed from relatives, friends and neighbors for the initial medical fees," said Zhang Guozhong. "Now, I have nothing to sell."

Zhang Xin is not the only child to suffer from this terrible disease. About 40,000 people contract leukaemia every year and half of them are children below 9 years of age.

(China Daily June 23, 2003)

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