Saturday, 22 October 2016

Fact of the Day: 61 Million Left-Behind Children

There are 61 million left-behind children like these ones in China
In China, the latest survey by the National Health and Family Planning Commission reveals there's a staggering 61 million left-behind children, a third of them younger than 17, who are not raised by their parents.

The mothers and fathers have gone to mostly coastal cities to find work to send money home and only see their children once or maybe twice a year.

The lack of hukou or residence permit in big cities prevents parents from bringing their children with them because they don't have access to decent housing, schooling and health care.

Many are raised by grandparents or relatives in hometowns
So these children are left to mostly grandparents or relatives to care for, and there are many sad cases of them dying.

Last June, four left-behind children from the same family, ranging in ages from give to 13, committed suicide together by swallowing pesticide in Bijie, Guizhou province. And in November 2012, five boys died from carbon monoxide poisoning after starting a charcoal fire to keep warm inside a dumpster.

Experts believe these incidents happened because the parents were not around to raise them.

But at the same time, where else can these parents go to try to make a better life for their families? Provinces like Anhui, Henan and Sichuan are the sources for the most migrant workers, as 44 percent of rural children in these areas are left behind, way above the national average of 35.6 percent.

What is the central government's response?

In February, the State Council, China's cabinet, issued a guideline to local authorities to improve the physical and psychological health of such children. But there are no details on exactly how they would do that. And would Beijing come to check on the the local authorities to see if the have implemented any programs to benefit left-behind children?

They only have access to basic education which isn't enough
They are the most neglected people in society next to orphans.

Sixty-one million children is not a number to dismiss -- it's almost the population of Britain. And yet they barely get basic education and health care, let alone the emotional support they need to grow up to be confident and relatively happy people with decent jobs.

The government needs to do more for these children, but anything effective and immediate doesn't seem to be a priority. Beijing likes to parrot how it has lifted more than 800 million people out of of poverty.

But what about these 61 million children? They are the next generation who deserve at least a chance to thrive.

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