300,000 children aged under 5 die each year

Updated: 2011-09-22 08:00

By Shan Juan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Almost 300,000 children aged under 5 on the Chinese mainland die every year, with more than 36 percent dying at home with poor access to healthcare, official statistics show.

The Report on Women and Children's Health Development, which was released on Wednesday by the Ministry of Health and is the first of its kind, lists five main causes of child mortality, including premature birth, congenital heart disease and accidental asphyxia.

"China still faces daunting challenges to further reduce the sheer number of child deaths and to better address health equality," said Qin Huaijin, director of maternal and child healthcare for the ministry.

By 2010, the mortality rate of under 5-year-olds was 1.64 percent, down 73.1 percent and 58.7 percent on 1991 and 2000, said Qin, who put the change down to continuous efforts by the government to improve children's health.

Wen Chunmei, program officer for World Health Organization's Representative China Office, said China ranks fifth for mortality among under-5s due to its colossal population.

He urged the government to allocate more resources to intervention programs, which remain limited, particularly in rural areas.

According to the health report, almost 12 percent of Chinese children who die before the age of 5 do not receive any medical treatment due to multiple factors, such as finances, transport and the health awareness of parents.

The gap between urban and rural areas has gradually narrowed in recent years, but it is still distinct, Qin said.

Last year, 7.3 children in every 1,000 died before the age of 5 in urban areas, while in rural areas it was 20.1. The figures represented a drop of 47.1 percent and 56 percent on 2000, according to the health report.

It also warned that child obesity has also become a rising problem, particularly among urbanites, while anemia and malnutrition remain major threats in the countryside.

"The healthcare capacity in rural areas, particularly for women and children, remains limited," Qin said.

Robert Scherpbier, an expert in child and adolescent health at UNICEF, added that, under such circumstances, special attention needs to be given to the children of migrant workers, both those living with their parents in cities and those left behind in the countryside.