The Executive Director of UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, who completed a two-day inspection trip to Tibet on August 31, has said that much work needs to be done to improve the health and education of women and children to catch up with the situation in China.
In press statements issued during and after her tour, Bellamy has said that “time is running out to help Tibet” although she said she was gratified to see that China has “met the substantial challenges in basic education.” Bellamy also highlighted the need to strengthen preventive health practices in Tibet.
Bellamy arrived in Tibet on August 29, 2004 to get a first hand look at the situation of children. She traveled to Lhoka region of Tibet (Chinese: Shannan Prefecture) from Chengdu and met with health and education officials there, including the Prefecture Vice Governor Chang Zhen. She visited Nedong and Chongye counties in the Prefecture touring village households, schools and health facilities.
Following are the series of press statements issued by UNICEF.
Bellamy urges Tibet to reach for new heights for children
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.
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.”
Bellamy arrives in Tibet; proceeds to Shannan Prefecture, Reviews UNICEF cooperation with local government health and education officials
AN HUI, TIBET, 30 August 2004 – Carol Bellamy arrived in Tibet yesterday to get a first hand look at the situation of children in Western China, a region that is struggling to catch up with the country’s strong economic growth.
Following a brief airport stop over in Cheng Du, to discuss cooperation for children with local government partners of UNICEF in Sichuan, Ms Bellamy traveled to the Shannan prefecture of Tibet and met with a delegation of 10 prefecture level health and education officials headed by Madame Chang Zhen, Vice Governor of the Prefecture. Also present in the meeting was Dr. Chistian Voumard, UNICEF China Representative.
The meeting focused on UNICEF cooperation in Shannan in the areas of safe motherhood, basic education and capacity building of teachers and educators. Although the rate of hospital childbirth in Tibet has doubled in the last five years, it is still only 28″ of all births. Bellamy emphasized the need to ensure that girls education was attended to and stressed the need to converge UNICEF support in health and education in the same communities.
Today Carol Bellamy will visit village households, schools and health facilities in various counties of Shannan Prefecture.
China: UNICEF head gets first hand look at health and education deficit in Tibet
30 August 2004 – United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy is in Tibet to get a first hand look at the situation of youngsters in western China, a region that is struggling to catch up with the country’s strong economic growth.
The Chinese economic advances which have catapulted hundreds of millions out of poverty are still a distant reality for the western regions of the world’s most swiftly developing nations. Compared to the east, those areas face half the level of rural income, double the rates of child mortality, and, in some districts, five to 10 times the rates of maternal death.
Ms. Bellamy, who travelled to the Shannan prefecture of Tibet yesterday and met with a delegation of health and education officials, was today visiting village households, schools and health facilities in various counties.
Her meetings have focused on UNICEF cooperation in the areas of safe motherhood, basic education and training for teachers and educators. Although the rate of hospital childbirth in Tibet has doubled in the last five years, it is still only 28 per cent of all births.
Ms. Bellamy stressed the need to attend to girls’ education and stressed to combine UNICEF support in health and education in the same communities.