Charity offers free surgeries to Xinjiang kids

By He Dan (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-22 06:53
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 Charity offers free surgeries to Xinjiang kids

Along with their parents, children with congenital heart disease in Xinjiang get ready on Monday to board a train to Beijing, where they will receive free surgery. ZHANG WANDE / FOR CHINA DAILY

BEIJING - A total of 51 children afflicted by congenital heart disease in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region headed on Monday to Beijing, where they will receive free surgery sponsored by a charity organization.

These children, coming from a mixed ethnicity including Han, Uygur, Kazakh, Hui, Mongolian and Dongxiang, boarded a train from Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, on Monday morning.

The China Charity Federation found the children by asking qualified families in the region to sign up for a program called Xinlei, initiated by the Beijing-based organization.

All the children are aged between 4 and 12 years old and have heart problems, including isolated atrial septal defect and pulmonary stenosis.

They were born to poverty-stricken families in remote areas of Xinjiang.

Ma Jiamin, a 12-year-old girl from Shihezi city, is the oldest in the group, all of whom will undergo surgery at the Air Force General Hospital.

The girl, diagnosed with heart disease 40 days after she was born, spent her childhood taking pills and having intravenous drips.

"I often get cold and fever, and I can neither play with other children nor do sports," Ma told local media. She said she was looking forward to a normal life after the surgery.

Experts called for better care for children with heart problems, as there are about 2 million children in the country with congenital heart problems who remain untreated.

China has about 4 million people suffering from congenital heart disease and the number is increasing by 150,000 cases a year.

Deng Tongshan, vice-president of the federation, said his organization plans to help at least 1,000 children suffering from the disease undergo surgery by the end of this year.

The program has already helped more than a dozen children afflicted by congenital heart defects receive free treatment.

The medical cost, which amounts to at least 8,000 yuan ($1,200) for the simplest heart operation, is the largest hurdle for most poor families seeking treatment for their children, said Deng.

To address the problem, some provinces, including Qinghai and Fujian, launched pilot projects last year to offer financial help to children born in rural families who are afflicted by congenital heart disease or leukemia, two ailments the central government has also targeted by helping residents with the health insurance program in rural areas.

People with the two diseases can have 70 percent of the medical cost reimbursed if they join the new rural cooperative medical care system.

China Daily

(China Daily 02/22/2011 page5)