Celebrity Ambassadors rally support to help children in Liangshan
Beijing, November 11, 2010 – At a press conference held in Beijing today, well-known Hong Kong based UNICEF Ambassadors Karen Mok and Daniel Chan called for more attention and support for impoverished children and women in remote areas such as Southwestern China's Liangshan Yi Ethnic Autonomous Prefecture. The artists appealed for public awareness of efforts by UNICEF and the Government of China to improve the health of children and women in the remote area.
With the great support and coordination from the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Health, in late September this year, celebrities Karen Mok, Daniel Chan, and special guest Astrid Chan visited children and their families in remote mountainous Meigu County in Liangshan Prefecture of Sichuan Province. They also visited some of the health clinics and maternal and child health care hospitals. Karen and Daniel shared their experience and feelings from this trip at the press conference.
Though they have visited many poor areas in the Chinese mainland with UNICEF, it was their first time to set foot on Liangshan, where they were moved by the poor living conditions of local women and children. They visited families suffering from the loss of mothers who died in childbirth or babies having being born with disabilities, mainly because of home delivery, low awareness of health care, malnutrition, poverty and other reasons. When they listened to the local women and elders recalling their experiences, they were moved to tears.
"During the visit to Liangshan Prefecture, I've seen for myself the living conditions of families in remote rural areas. In Hong Kong, we don't have to worry about food, water, transport or health care. But here, their living conditions are very tough. I care about them, and am proud to contribute my efforts to help UNICEF to carry out progamme activities in the area.” Karen Mok said.
"I've visited many different places with UNICEF, but the goodwill visit to Liangshan Prefecture has left a deep impression on me. I've seen for myself that these children are in dire need of basic health care service. Only with this can they have the chance to develop their fullest potential.” Daniel Chan said.
As a mother herself, Astrid Chan sympathized with what the poverty-stricken mothers have gone through. “Due to lack of resources, deficient medical facilities and difficult transport, mothers living in remote mountainous areas, compared with their counterparts in the cities, are facing many difficulties to ensure their children can grow-up healthy.” She said.
Since the 1950's the local Yi ethnic group has advanced significantly from the “slavery” culture that had prevailed for centuries. Even so, today, many families are living in extremely remote deprived conditions and practice an antiquated system of agriculture, despite the great progress made by China in lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.
According to official statistics, nearly one-third of the rural population in Liangshan is under the national rural poverty line – with an annual income per capita less than 1196 RMB. The extreme poverty, poor infrastructure for accessing health services, cultural barriers and low awareness of hospital delivery, lack of qualified health providers and under-equipped health facilities have posed challenges to the survival and wellbeing of children and women.
In 2009, the maternal mortality rate in the region is about double the national average. The under-5 mortality rate is also higher than the national average. The hospital delivery rate was 44.4% in 2009, more than 50% lower than the national average.
"We hope that this visit can help rally public attention and support to provide children with basic health services especially for maternal and child health care and immunization, help prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mothers to children, provide treatment and care for children living with HIV/AIDS, raise the local people's health care awareness, and finally reduce maternal and child mortality rates and improve their health conditions,” said Ms. Leonie Ki, Chairman of the Advocacy and PR Committee of Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF.
UNICEF works in some of the world's toughest places, to reach the world's most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org.
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