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.
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.