China held its first Child Poverty and Development Forum last Thursday in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang province.
After the forum, a senior official made a statement that China will give priority to poverty reduction and development issues for children as part of its rural poverty alleviation strategy during the next 10 years.
"Lifting children out of poverty will effectively break the cycle of poverty, preventing it from continuing in the next generation," said Zheng Wenkai, deputy chief of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.
However, there are no official statistics showing how many children live in poverty in China.
A survey conducted by Peking University and Beijing Normal University on young people in 18 counties in 2010 revealed that 4.9 percent of the respondents live in poverty. China has a population of 309 million under the age of 18, of which 60 percent live in rural areas. The survey findings suggest there are an estimated 9 million children living in poverty in rural China.
Gillian Mellsop, representative of the United Nation's Children's Fund (UNICEF) in China, stated that China has made remarkable achievements in increasing child welfare in the past two decades. The country's child mortality rate has dropped by 67 percent and it has realized universal basic education.
Despite these advances, a considerable number of poor children, especially those in the countryside, still struggle with malnutrition and hunger.
"Sometimes, I can't pay attention in class in the afternoons because I feel starved since I often don't have lunch," said Liu Yan, a 12-year-old student from Hongban village, Southwest China's Guizhou province.
China must take a multi-dimensional approach, which combines intervention with education, health and other social services, to address child poverty. China has recognized that child poverty creates difficult experiences in childhood that can have lifelong consequences.
The inclusion of child poverty as one of the 10 major target groups for the government's poverty alleviation efforts in the coming 10 years is an important step in the right direction, but a more detailed and focused national plan is needed to ensure the plan succeeds.