Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA
A study published today has found that China’s rural children are three to six times more likely to die than those in urban areas. Ten children out of 1,000 died before the age of five in the richest cities, compared to 64 in poorer rural regions.
Using public databases containing information from 1990 to 2008, researchers at the Croatian Center for Global Health in Split found the leading causes of death in children under this age were pneumonia, birth asphyxia, and pre-term birth complications.
Whilst the paper conceded that mortality rates plummeted from by 71 percent (from 64.6 to 18.5 per 1,000 livebirths from 1990 to 2008), it reiterated that the gap in health care provisions between rich and poor in China remained wide.
The study has cast considerable light on China’s pressing rural-urban divide. The Telegraph reported that China’s breakneck economic growth has been so urban-focused that life expectancy is now 11 years greater in Shanghai than in Gansu province.
The country’s poverty gap remains stretched by measures such as the hukou, the household registration system that severely limits the access of rural migrant workers to basic services in China’s cities. In some cases, the poverty-stricken have resorted to visiting illegal clinics, which are cheaper but more dangerous alternatives to government-backed clinics and hospitals.
Last year, the government pledged $123 billion over three years to provide universal and affordable basic healthcare to its citizens. Speaking to Reuters recently, Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu said,
Now we are a 1.33 billion-population, and 1.23 billion are covered. Some 100 million are not covered, these are migrants, elderly people and children in cities and people in small enterprises. I hope that next year, a part of these 100 million people who are still uninsured…will be brought in.