Fast for a day to understand plight of poor, say campaigners

Updated: 2014-10-17 17:23


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"I had heart palpitations and cold sweats from hunger pains," said Kimi Qiao as he described the devastating effects that can result from not having enough food.

The 27-year-old pop star was not on a diet to lose weight — he was participating in a 24-hour fast to learn what it is like to be too poor to afford food. He shared a video of the experience on his blog.

People throughout China are being encouraged to set aside their chopsticks and go without food for 24 hours to mark the first China Poverty Alleviation Day on Friday.

The program, initiated by the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, is intended to raise awareness of the poor.

As the country ramps up its efforts to reduce poverty, the United Nations Development Program has been hosting a discussion on its blog about the purchasing power of eight yuan ($1.25) in different parts of the world. It is seeking donations of three yuan to help students in poor areas buy a school lunch.

China achieved great success as it pressed ahead with its program of rapid economic development, but 200 million of its people still live on under 8 yuan a day.

Supermarket manager Li Fang said she could not imagine how anyone can survive on such a small amount.

"Eight yuan only pays for two apples or a hamburger now in the cities," she said.

Li said she learned from the awareness program that 82 million people in China are even worse off, living on less than six yuan a day.

Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council's Office for Poverty Alleviation, said the country is stepping up its efforts to raise the living standards of 10 million of the poorest people as he addressed the first national poverty alleviation forum on Thursday.

He said teams will be sent to all poor villages to assist residents, establish major poverty alleviation programs, reform performance evaluation mechanisms and encourage wider social participation.

China helped nearly 40 million poor residents climb out of poverty last year, based on the country's poverty line of 2,300 yuan for rural per-capita annual income.

"However, poverty is still a salient problem in China," he said, adding that the number of people classed as poor under international measures accounts for 15 percent of the total population.

Some 120,000 poor villages are beset by a lack of water, roads, electricity, schools and healthcare.

Efforts will be made this year to identify people in extreme poverty and provide help to their households.

Hanjun, deputy director of the State Council's Development Research Center, said more investment will be made in education in poverty-stricken areas.

"In some mountainous areas, teenagers have to walk three or four hours to reach school," he said. "How can you expect them to continue studying until high school?"

He said measures would be taken to improve the welfare of teachers in the poorest areas, as 80 percent of them have quit their jobs in the past three years.

Liu said there is an urgent need to improve the mechanisms of poverty alleviation to prevent poor management, badly executed policies and misuse of funds intended to reduce poverty.

In just over three decades, 600 million people have moved out of poverty. However, at the end of 2013, 82 million people remained in poverty in rural areas.