Figures from the Ministry of Health show that while the maternal mortality rate in eastern regions, such as Shanghai, has declined to 10 per 100,000 births, which is almost as good as developed countries, the rate in western regions is still as high as 80 to 100 per 100,000 because of poverty.
To mobilize all of society to assist poor pregnant women in China's central and western regions, more than 20 Chinese singers, actors and actresses joined the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) in Beijing yesterday which was Mother's Day to promote a campaign called "Action 120: Maternal and Infant Project."
Wang Xingzui, the foundation's secretary-general, explained that in the project's name "120", "1" stands for one family; "2" stands for two lives and "0" stands for zero risk in giving birth.
"A safe birth is crucial to a family, and most of the deaths in the countryside could be prevented with easily implemented and affordable measures," he said.
"We hope with today's activity, the project will receive more public attention."
The project, which was launched in 2000 by CFPA, one of the country's largest non-governmental organizations, is aimed at complementing the maternal and infant healthcare system, and reducing or exempting medical treatment fees for poor mothers.
"Our primary goal is to make sure that every pregnant woman delivers her baby in a hospital instead of at home," Wang said.
Each expectant mother receives up to 100 yuan (US$12) if it is a natural labor under the project and up to 800 yuan (US$100) if she needs a Caesarean.
The money should be enough to cover at least one-third of the total expense involved in giving birth, according to CFPA.
Prenatal checks and emergency support facilities have also been set up.
The project currently covers more than 700,000 people in five counties in east China's Fujian Province, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, southwest China's Yunnan Province and Chongqing Municipality. More than 20,000 poor mothers and infants have benefited from the project, according to figures provided by CFPA.
"And in the next three years, our project will cover about 2.5 million people in 10 counties," Wang said.
He added that a sound mechanism had been set up to ensure donations were given to those most in need.
Anyone who wants to help can contact the foundation on 010-82872688-825.
(China Daily May 15, 2006)