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Chinese children need more care, protection
( 2003-11-19 21:31) (Xinhua)

Though living conditions much improved with years of efforts from the government and international cooperation, Chinese children are still threatened by HIV, poverty, and malnutrition.

Officials and experts on children's development held a heated discussion on these issues at the China-UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) Program 2001-2005 Mid-term Review Meeting held in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday.

AIDS/HIV prevention has become a new issue in children's protection in China, said Mehr Khan, UNICEF regional director for East Asia and the Pacific Region.

Official figures show that China has about 840,000 HIV carriers, 80,000 of which have contracted AIDS. The number of newly reported HIV carriers rose by 19.5 percent in 2002.

Children are vulnerable to HIV as they know little about this virus, Khan said, so though it leads the Asia-Pacific region in children's development, China needs to spare more efforts to improve health and nutrition, AIDS/HIV prevention and children protection.

Poverty is also a big threat to Chinese children, said Zhang Liming, an official with the Women and Children's Working Committee under the State Council.

Many children, especially in poor areas, are deprived of the right to go to school by poverty. The dropout rate for girls is much higher than that for boys. Over 400 counties in China have not reached the goal of nine-year compulsory education and most of them are in poor areas.

Also, underdeveloped regions have a higher mortality rate for babies, children under five, and women during childbirth.

In addition, inadequate government input in social welfare leaves many orphans, street children, migrant children and discarded babies bare of social protection, said Zhang.

Statistics from the China Children's Center show that 9.3 percent of the migrant children in China are dropouts and 46.9 percent of six-year-old children have not been admitted to elementary school as required by law.

Migrant children are also more vulnerable to diseases including anemia, rickets and retardation caused by malnutrition, according to the statistics.

The Chinese government would strengthen cooperation with UNICEF and give special attention to needy children, said Wang Xinggen, official with the Department of International Affairs of the Ministry of Commerce, at the two-day meeting.

The China-UNICEF 2001-2005 Program, with an investment of 100 million US dollars by UNICEF, aims to improve Chinese children's health and education through a series of service programs in nutrition, early development, safe drinking water and clean environmental.

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