The young mothers with their newborn children at Diaozhuang Hospital in a suburb of Yinchuan, the capital of northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, were probably wondering why so many people were gathered outside their ward.
Doctors, nurses, officials and celebrities were gathered for a special ceremony to start the Hepatitis B Vaccine Project for babies here on Saturday.
Sponsored by UNICEF, the local government and the Hong Kong-based Chinese History and Culture Education Foundation for Youth, the project is designed to help wipe out hepatitis B and liver cancer among the local poor.
Vice-Chairman of the National People’s Congress Wang Guangying and his wife praised the project as an effective measure to improve public health in northwest China.
On behalf of local people, Feng Jionghua, vice-chairman of the Ningxia government, expressed the region’s appreciation of the donation of HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) from Miss Annie Wu for the projects.
Speaking at the ceremony, Gnilane Senghor, a senior program planning official of UNICEF, thanked all the agencies and partners for their support of the initiative, which will ensure that all children in Ningxia will be able to get hepatitis B vaccinations.
A survey from UNICEF shows that hepatitis B is the cause of over 95 percent of liver cancer, and liver cancer is the number one cancer killer in China, with related health care costs in billions of yuan.
The estimated rate of hepatitis B infection among the rural population of Ningxia is about 66 percent, or two out of every three people, and the problem is especially severe in the poor southern part of the autonomous region.
(China Daily 02/12/2001)