|© UNICEF video|
|During China visit, UNICEF Executive Board President Abdul Momen greets a child at a village health clinic in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.|
By Steve Nettleton
NINGXIA HUI AUTONOMOUS REGION, China, 22 April 2010 – A journey to the north-western Chinese region of Ningxia earlier this month offered members of UNICEF’s Executive Board a firsthand look at health care for mothers and children in one of the most disadvantaged parts of the country.
Executive Board members toured several health facilities, including those where rural residents find their first point of access to government health services: a township medical centre and a county-level general hospital.
Although maternal and infant mortality have decreased across China in recent years, maternal deaths remain higher in Ningxia than in more developed regions.
Improving mothers’ health
With support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, UNICEF is working to improve maternal health care in four southern Ningxia counties that are predominantly inhabited by China’s Muslim Hui minority.
The project – which includes elements such as health worker education and improved water and sanitation methods – exemplifies how UNICEF is helping to reduce maternal mortality across China’s thousands of rural counties.
|© UNICEF video|
|UNICEF Executive Board members met members of the Muslim Hui minority living in Ningxia, China.|
In Ningxia, a provincial maternal health-care policy offers mothers free care before, during and after their children are born – as well as free detection and treatment of congenital diseases and subsidies for specialized treatment of pregnant women and newborns. The programme, known as the 'four free and one subsidy' policy, was introduced in 2009.
“I’m thankful to our UNICEF office in China because they take us to the remote areas, to areas that are very vulnerable and poor,” said UNICEF Executive Board President Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen. “Another good thing I have seen is there should be ownership of the project by the country government, and I find here an example of it. In the process, the total cost of UNICEF is so little, but the benefit is so high.”
Basic health information
Board members also visited an Arabic school for Muslim girls in nearby Tongxin county, where 86 per cent of the population is Muslim. In addition to the standard curriculum, students here are taught basic health information on such topics as pregnancy, breastfeeding, and HIV and AIDS.
In central Ningxia, Executive Board members also visited a kindergarten that was opened by a local family in their own home. Through this early childhood education project, young children interact and develop before they start formal primary school education.
The visit to Ningxia offered members of UNICEF’s Executive Board a rare glimpse of a part of China many outsiders never see. It is a view that will help play a role in UNICEF’s planning of future projects – not only in China, but across the globe.