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Migrant children need helping hand
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-17 07:12

Having attended a pilot project protecting the rights of migrant children over the past two years, Wang Hui, a 13-year girl from East China's Zhejiang Province, says she does not feel excluded by her peers any more.

Wang lives in Tan'ge Community in Shijiazhuang, capital of North China's Hebei Province, where her parents have conducted business since 1990.

In spring 2003, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched a programme in Wang's community that enabled migrant children like her to enjoy identical rights and opportunities as local youngsters.

Depicting herself a "community child" instead of a "migrant child," Wang now enjoys life in her second hometown.

Wang is lucky, because across the world hundreds of millions of children are still suffering from severe exploitation and discrimination, and have become virtually "invisible" to the world, according to a major UNICEF report released on Friday. The report explores the causes of the exclusion and abuse children experience.

The absence of official birth records for these children in the world has led to a range of problems including paedophile abuse and slavery, it said. The report estimated that 1.8 million children work in the sex industry, 5.7 million are sold into slavery and 1.2 million are trafficked each year.

These children are growing up beyond the reach of development campaigns, and are often invisible in everything from public debate and legislation to statistics and news stories, according to the report, entitled "State of the World's Children 2006: Excluded and Invisible."

"Even in China, which is on course to achieve most of the millennium development goals, millions of children are being left behind," said Christian Voumard, representative of UNICEF China, at the launch ceremony of the report on Friday in Beijing.

It is estimated that there are 140 million migrants in China, posing serious challenges for municipal governments in providing adequate health care, education and protection, especially for children, said Wan Yan, a senior official with the National Committee for Children and Women.

Census statistics in 2000 indicated that the number of migrant children had reached 19.81 million, accounting for 19.4 per cent of the migrant population, she said.

Starting from 2000, the Chinese Government began to tackle the problem of migrant children, for example providing health care, education and other rights for them, according to the official.

In 2001, UNICEF and Wan's committee launched a pilot project in two mid-tier cities, Shijiazhuang and Wuxi in East China's Jiangsu Province, where there are sizable migrant populations.

Discrimination towards and the lack of registration of migrant children under the age of 16 are the major reasons why a large majority of these children are not realizing their basic rights to education, health, participation and protection, she noted.

To resolve the issue of migrant children, China should set up a cross-department mechanism that combines public security, education, sanitation, agriculture, social security and financial departments, the official suggested.

(China Daily 12/17/2005 page2)

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