BEIJING, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- Putting children first in national poverty alleviation efforts is the most effective way of breaking the cycle of poverty, supporting children to reach their potential and driving national development and growth.
"The physical and mental health in childhood is of utmost importance in one's life," said Zuo Changsheng, director of the international poverty reduction center in China, at the child poverty session of the Global Poverty Reduction and Development Forum on Monday.
"If one lives in poverty in childhood, the experience will have a great influence on the future," he added.
Jillian Popkins, chief of social policy and reform for children at UNICEF China started working in China in the early 1990s when poverty was much more prevalent than it is now.
"At that time, parents had to pay school fees and they couldn't provide children with many opportunities," she said.
Since reform and opening up began, about 700 million people have left poverty behind, a figure that represents more than 70 percent of global poverty reduction. At the end of last year, 43 million impoverished people remained in rural areas with the country committed to taking all rural people out of poverty by 2020.
Popkins told Xinhua of the importance of left-behind children. "The most important change I would look for in the next ten years is the numbers of children who are able to live with their parents and access services they need in the places where their parents can find jobs," she said.
She also talked about early child care. "There are still some areas where parents have to pay fees in the first 1,000 days," she said. As a result, some babies do not get the services they need.
Song Wenzhen, an official with the National Committee on Women and Children under the State Council, said that children in their first 1,000 days are a key group in a child nutrition project.
"Malnutrition in early stages of life leads to higher risks of child mortality and morbidity," she said, adding that 30 percent of child deaths are related to malnutrition, while deficiency of protein and energy knocks 10 to 15 points off IQ, while deficiency of iron and iodine causes a drop of five to eight points.
Each year the government provides 2.3 billion yuan (347 million U.S. dollars) as nutrition payments for 1.6 million children under five years who are impoverished. According to the National Plan for Action for Children (2011-2020), the under-five anaemia rate must be kept below 12 percent, the under-five stunting rate to below 7 percent and the low weight rate to below 5 percent.