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UNICEF Aid for Gansu Children
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"There are many poor families in Gansu Province. I saw myself those children desperately needing the basic health and hygiene services provided by UNICEF. With our help, they have the opportunities to develop their potentials," said Karen Mok, the ambassador for the UNICEF Hong Kong Committee, at a press conference in Beijing on Saturday.

On January 19, UNICEF sent a field team on a weeklong trip to Jingning County, one of the most underdeveloped places in Gansu, to visit mothers and children, investigate the local health and medical situation and help those in need.

"I firmly believe that one of UNICEF's greatest advantages among all United Nation's organizations is the presence of its 37 national committees for UNICEF around the world," said Dr. Yin Yin Nwe, representative of UNICEF Office for China. "And to understand why, we just have to look at the very program organized by Hong Kong Committee and all our partners here today. All are here for the common call of children."

Dr. Nwe called the program an example of how UNICEF collaborates with government partners, major celebrities, private sectors and civil societies, and all kinds of organizations. She also hoped to raise the awareness among tens of thousands more people to the plight of western China's children through the program to better help women and children there.

Karen Mok, a pop star from Hong Kong who was assigned as ambassador for UNICEF in 2004, also shared her experience of the weeklong trip to the conference.

She was deeply touched by a smart and adorable boy, Liangliang (an alias), a six-year-old living with his grandparents. After only one prenatal examination, Liangliang's mother went into labor at home and died of respiratory complications one hour later. Due to a lack of medical facilities, home delivery threatens both mothers and babies, a common threat in rural China.

Another handicapped boy, Xiaolin (an alias) was also delivered at home with the assistance of a village doctor. Delayed medical treatment complicated his respiratory problem and fever into severe mental and physical disability. Though different from normal children, Xiaolin received the same love and care from his parents, who are both poor farmers.

As a woman, Karen Mok fully understood a mother's desire to take care of her children and called for all deliveries to be assisted by medical professionals in hospitals, a practice strongly advocated by UNICEF.

The trip was co-organized by UNICEF, China's Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Health.

One of the poorest provinces in China, Gansu witnesses a maternity death rate that stands at a chilling double of the national average. The death rate of newborn babies is also 50 percent higher than the average. Many are born with cleft lips and heart disease and only 81.2 percent of the children finish five years primary school. Though mainly relying on agriculture, the province claims some of the nation's lowest production value due to barren fields and atrocious weather.

Karan Mok, Ambassador of Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF was talking with a woman village doctor. In rural China, village doctors receive a regular monthly training.

Karan Mok, Ambassador of Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF took a picture with Meimei (an alias), a four-year-old girl with her mother Chunfang (an alias). The mother suffers from hypertesion. Pregnant women in the village rarely receive necessary prenatal exminations.

Karen Mok, Ambassador of Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF visited Xiaolin (an alias), an eight-year-old boy suffering from mental and physical disabilty due to respiratory problem upon birth.

Liangliang (an alias), a six-year-old whose mother died of respiratory complications when gave birth to him at home.

Thanks to UNICEF's Local Planning and Action for Children (LPAC), Zhao Yongping (right) became a village offical. The LPAC has provided opportunities of development for women.

( by staff reporter Huang Shan, January 29, 2007)

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