|© UNICEF China/2010|
|Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF Ambassador Karen Mok and Hong Kong actress Astrid Chan listen to an HIV-positive mother sharing her story about the daily challenges she faces living in Liangshan prefecture, a remote area of China's Sichuan Province.|
LIANGSHAN, China, 25 March 2011 – In an ongoing effort to reach the most vulnerable communities, ambassadors Karen Mok and Daniel Chan from the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF (HKCU) – along with actress Astrid Chan and UNICEF staff members – visited children and families in Liangshan prefecture late last year.
A television documentary about their visit, ‘First Day Light of Liangshan’, aired recently. It received enormous attention and raised critical funds for UNICEF's field projects in this marginalized minority region, which is located in the mountains of Sichuan Province.
According to official statistics, around 30 per cent of the rural population in Liangshan is struggling below the national rural poverty line. Deep-rooted difficulties – including poor access to health services, low awareness of hospital deliveries, under-equipped health facilities and shortages of qualified health providers – combine to imperil the survival and well-being of the children and women living here.
In 2009, the region’s maternal mortality rate was more than twice the national average for China. The mortality rate for children under the age of five was also higher, and the hospital delivery rate was less than half the national average.
|© UNICEF China/2010|
|Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF Ambassador Daniel Chan greets a child during his visit to Liangshan prefecture of Sichuan Province, China.|
On their trip, Ms. Mok, Mr. Chan and Ms. Chan saw just what these statistics really mean: families devastated by the loss of mothers, babies born with disabilities, and the ever-present threat of HIV/AIDS.
“During the visit to Liangshan prefecture, I’ve seen for myself the living conditions of families in remote rural areas,” said Ms. Mok. “In Hong Kong, we don’t have to worry about food, water, transport or health care. But here, their living conditions are very tough.”
Maternal and child health
Added Ms. Chan: “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.”
In Liangshan, UNICEF is working to provide maternal and child health care and immunization services, prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and treat and care for children living with HIV and AIDS. In addition, the China Children’s Health Fund, a monthly donation programme established in 1999, supports life-saving projects for children here.