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Bellamy urges Tibet to reach for new heights for children

© UNICEF China/2004/Wang Yongji
Bellamy asks about a Tibetan poetry lesson in Yadui Boarding School. Most children attend boarding school to complete basic education in Tibet, due to a small but scattered population.

TSE  DANG,  TIBET,  31 August 2004 - UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy today  completed  two  days  of  visits  with  families, health clinics and elementary  schools in the Naidung and Chongjie counties. Bellamy got an up close  look  at the issues faced at village level in Tibet through numerous discussions  with parents, health workers and teachers. The visit will help UNICEF  and  its  local  government  partners to refine their strategies to reduce  the stark disparities that affect much of Western China. UNICEF has been working with local government in Tibet since 1980.

"There has  been  much  progress for women and children here, but there is still  much  work  to do to catch up with the rest of China," said Bellamy. "We  need  to strengthen preventive health and do a better job of packaging interventions  like  education, sanitation and hygiene," she added. Although there has been  significant progress in primary health care in the last decade, Tibet still has the highest maternal and child mortality rates in China.

In the last decade, child and maternal death rates in Tibet have dropped by around half, reflecting enormous gains. Still, child mortality stands at 53 per  thousand  live  births  and maternal mortality is over 400 per 100,000 live births, up to eight times higher than the national rate.

The  UNICEF  China  program  is  mounting intensive efforts to develop with local  government  partners  new strategies and initiatives to tackle these disparities over the next five years.

© UNICEF/HQ04-0564/Wang Yongji
CB and UNICEF China Project Officers Lin Fei (left) and Anjana Mangalagiri (right) deliver health and hygiene school books to teachers.

Bellamy  focused  much  of  her consultation with village health workers on expanding  preventive  health  practices  versus  reliance  on curative measures. "I am impressed to see the amount that the Government has  invested  in infrastructure ­ in roads, electricity and ccommunications in  Tibet," she said, "now its essential for the same kind of commitment to go  into  empowering  families  to prevent illness at home and in improving grassroots healthworker skills."
Tibet, and much of Western China, lag behind the rest of the country in the use  of  iodized salt to combat iodine deficiency which reduces IQ by 10-15 points.  Household  usage of iodized salt in Tibet is 39 per cent while the rate for China as a whole in over 95 per cent.

Bellamy  also  visited  elementary  schools  and  talked  with teachers and students  about  the  challenges  of delivering quality education in such a vast   and  sparsely  populated  province.  Tibet  is  1.2  million  square kilometers  with  a  population  of  2.7  million  people.  Primary  school enrollment  in  Tibet is high at 92 per cent considering the geography, but most  children  have  to  complete  primary  education in boarding schools.

Primary  school drop out is estimated at 30-35 per cent mostly in the later grades.  UNICEF  is  working  with local education officials to improve the quality  of  teaching  and  learning  in  boarding  schools while packaging essential  interventions  in health, life skills, sanitation and hygiene at schools.

Bellamy  summed up: "We are gratified to see how the government has met the substantial  challenges  in  basic  education, but with the dramatic social changes  coming  to  China  time  is  running out to help Tibet and all the Western provinces to catch up."


For more information, please contact:

Dale Rutstein, UNICEF Beijing
Tel: +86 10 6532 3131 x1301

Liu Li (Chinese & English), UNICEF Beijing
Tel: (86-10) 65323131 ext 1303




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