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Health or death for China's mountain children

2015-01-16 14:39 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

The first few years of life are delicate for rural children living in southwest China's mountain ranges. With threadbare living conditions and little access to medicine, they often survive by the grim mantra of getting strong or getting sick.

The harsh reality of rural child rearing hit 27-year-old farmer Han Jianying hard after she discovered her 2-year-old son experiencing bloody stools.

With income scarce, Han was needed on her mountain mushroom farm in the Yi minority village of Tangyang, Sichuan Province, less than a year after giving birth to her son, Ma Yunlong. Because normal term breastfeeding was not an option, Han supplemented Ma's diet with buckwheat and ghee butter before he was one month old.

With little supervision and a poor diet, Ma would often pick food from the ground with his unwashed hands, resulting in serious digestion problems from a very early age.


While Ma's illness is easily cured with proper medical treatment, many villages in rural areas have little access to transport or hospitals. As a result, even the most easily treated sicknesses claim the lives of thousands of rural children every year.

Diarrhea is one of the most serious illnesses affecting children in China's rural areas, taking the lives of an estimated 13,000 children under five years old every year, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Pneumonia, the most prevalent, kills 44,000 children under five every year.

"Pneumonia and Diarrhea are preventable childhood diseases," Zhu Xu, a Health Specialist with UNICEF, told Xinhua.

"They are treated by pneumococcal vaccination and rotavirus vaccination, which are not among the free vaccines to children in China while many developing countries have adopted those new vaccines." Access is a major factor for the villages.

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