26m still in poverty despite progress
Six hundred yuan (US$72.3) is not a big sum, but it means the world to 39-year-old He Yufang, a poor villager from Zhoubai Township in Southwest China's Chongqing.
On February 10 last year, her family were thrown into poverty by unexpected hospital costs from the difficult delivery of her first child.
Fortunately, the China Founda-tion for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) gave her a helping hand by providing a 600 yuan subsidy.
In 2004, the non-governmental organization (NGO) provided various subsidies for 2,891 pregnant women and saved 17 poor mothers whose lives were in danger at child delivery through the Maternal and Infant Health Project launched by CFPA.
The CFPA collected 112 million yuan (US$13.5 million) in charity funding and material in 2004 to directly benefit 458,500 people living in poverty, Zheng Mengxiong, vice-president of the NGO, said yesterday at the first conference of CFPA's Fifth Council.
Besides the mother and infant project, the foundation also launched a micro-finance project to provide financial support and technical training to poor households, a "New Great Wall Project" to help poor university students, a disaster relief project and "Project Angel" to improve building services for hospitals in poor regions.
More than 1.8 million people have benefited from the CFPA's instant aid projects since its founding in 1997, said CFPA's former President Wang Yuzhao.
Meanwhile, poverty alleviation remains an arduous and long-term task for China not only because there are still 26.1 million people living in poverty but also because those who have shaken off poverty are prone to becoming poor again.
In 2004, the rural population living in abject poverty with an annual income of less than 668 yuan (US$80.5) decreased by 2.9 million, while those with an income of less than 924 yuan (US$111) decreased by 6.4 million, said Liu Jian, director of the Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development under the State Council.
But this is only half the story, he said.
"For the nearly 100 million people who live just above the benchmark of poverty, accidental changes, such as disease, would put them back into poverty again," Liu said at the conference.
It is a strategic mission for the nation to reverse the ideas of the rural poor, he said.
"People from all walks of life should be mobilized to combat poverty," Liu said. "And the NGOs could also play a crucial role that will speed up the government's effort in this regard."
Speaking at a national anti-poverty conference last week, the director said China has focused on poverty alleviation of one village after another, the training of migrant workers and the acceleration of the industrialization process.
He also disclosed that the central government will allocate 13 billion yuan (US$1.6 billion) in financial funds this year with governments at all levels to earmark corresponding funds to help fight against poverty.