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Photo: Lee Fitzroy/OxfamAUS


China has experienced unprecedented economic growth in recent years, emerging as one of the world’s leading economic powers. But not everyone has benefited. While incomes are rising in the bigger cities, as many as 466 million people still live on less than US $2 a day.

We’re working in the poorest provinces of Yunnan, Guangxi and Guizhou where people are living on less than 50 cents a day.

Improving community health

Many people in these three provinces belong to poor ethnic minorities and live in remote areas where it is hard for people to earn an income and basic services are limited.

Remote communities in China’s south-west are learning how to protect themselves from fluorosis poisoning thanks to a new Oxfam initiative.

Fluorosis poisoning occurs through eating contaminated food that has been dried by heat from burning coal on open stoves. Symptoms range from fluorine-stained teeth to severe skeletal poisoning and paralysis. Rates of disease are high in Guizhou province, and there is no effective treatment.

Our project, implemented by Oxfam Hong Kong, has been developed in conjunction with villagers and the government as part of a broader strategy to improve living conditions for this impoverished region.

To address the fluorosis problem we are:

  • Providing community health promotion and education in disease prevention
  • Supplying villagers with anti-fluorine stoves
  • Building concrete solar-drying platforms for food
  • Promoting alternative ways to earn an income so that villagers can buy fluorine-free food such as rice

Developing communities

Maogu is a poor village in a remote part of Yunnan province. With poor access to local markets or a fresh water supply, life for the community here has been hard.

With our help, the community’s priority projects have been realised: together we’ve built a road to the village and constructed more than 100 water tanks, providing fresh, clean water for the community.

It’s been a collaborative effort: we provided 70% of the funding for the projects, the government provided the remaining 30% and the community provided the labour to build the road and tanks.

The new road has reduced the cost of getting produce to market and villagers can now easily access schools, healthcare and other services in the main centre. The water tanks have also brought welcome benefits, particularly for women who no longer have to walk two hours a day to collect water.

Map of China

Fast facts

Population living below the poverty line:
180 million (13.4%)
Life Expectancy:
74.99 years
Infant Mortality Rate:
15.2 deaths/1,000 live births
Unemployment rate:
6.5% (87 million)

Source: CIA World Factbook