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  • Writer's pictureZhiyao Xiao

COVID and Rural China

On New Year’s Eve, a new strain of the coronavirus called COVID-19 has infiltrated through a Wuhan Wet Market. Wuhan, which is in China’s Hubei Province, is half rural and half urban because of the recent developments in the 21st century to build a more industrialized nation. Since then, it has taken the lives of almost 500 thousand people, with 10.5 million more confirmed cases.

COVID-19 has since then spread all around the world, expanding from an epidemic into a pandemic. Currently 91% of countries in the world have been affected and are adjusting to the change in lifestyle. China’s CDC has already implemented safety protocols such as building a rapid response team to treat the cases in Hubei, funding for scientists to develop a vaccine, and other health equipment/protocols to delay the disease. Even in prisons, China’s CDC has been working hard to contain outbreaks. Prisons are transporting prisoners to hospitals for treatment, quickly jumping into action before it could spread. Some jailers are forbidden to go home until they are cleared for 14 days. The doctors in China’s hospitals are not even allowed to step outside their hospitals. While most of the West are staying in our homes in an attempt to stifle disease, rural areas aren’t so lucky.

Living in rural areas already poses several disadvantages— poor education, borderline poverty lifestyle, and lack of adequate medical care. What makes COVID-19 so dangerous is its ability to infect someone without having shown symptoms. In fact, many can be carriers of the disease without realizing it, and continue to infect many others they come in contact with. Additionally, because of the nature of their work, some farmers may encounter novel coronaviruses from their livestock or other wild game they hunt for the market. Domestic and wild animals (camels, pangolins, cattle, bats, cats, dogs) are hosts for these coronaviruses. These farmers sometimes do not evade security protocols in order to sell some items illegally to earn a stable income. As a result, an undetected coronavirus can transmit to infect humans and cause a global pandemic like we see now.

It’s not just that. As we have seen here, there is a pattern to Chinese government and its response to its rural areas: slow to none. With China suffering severe repercussions from the COVID-19, they have dedicated much of their funding into research and disinfection protocols that rural China’s problems have largely ignored or reported at all.

In rural China, few people can be seen wearing masks. Because of its drift with the rest of civilization, many also are not properly informed about how severe the situation is and what safety measures to take. Even so, those who are properly informed and taking precautions were having trouble payi

ng for the expensive masks. To make matters worse, many Chinese marketing websites are out of stock in masks due to mass panic and unnecessary buying. Especially in rural Dazhu, masks appear unavailable online and stores are out of stock. Even in areas near Wuhan province, many Chinese citizens appear to not be wearing masks— most likely due to limited stock. In China, everyone has learned the ritual of ID scanning and temperature taking whilst in any area outside of home, but some rural families cannot even afford thermometers or smartphones. Additionally, LBCs (left behind children) are forced to cope with the issue alone while their parents are quarantined in the cities. Those LBCs who are raised as single parents or with grandparents are especially at risk. The majority of rural populations are elders and 80% of COVID-19 deaths have been by seniors. Children aren’t as proactive about precautions and may transmit viruses running errands, and grandparents who have chronic problems are significantly more likely to have fatal repercussions from contracting the disease. At this rate, even prisoners are having better outcomes than rural citizens!

To put it simply, many rural people are at mercy of the virus because they are unable to gain access to masks, medical care, and sufficient income to support themselves during this time of uncertainty. Spring Sprouts had to cancel their annual summer service, which aims to aid rural children’s education processes. Speaking of education….

Many in the West and in urban areas of China (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangdong) are wealthy enough to continue learning via online classes. While Zoom has been making a breakthrough in 2020, it is not accessible in many rural areas. Rural schools were forced to close, halting rural kids’ education since late January. There’s no telling how much longer they are forced to stay home without the privilege of learning like other kids their age can. At this rate, many rural kids would be forced to enroll the same year in 2021, holding them back even further.

What can we do? Even in situations where all seems lost, little things can indeed make a big difference! You can donate to charities who are taking action against COVID-19. Platforms in the West and other parts of the world include Red Cross, CDC, and WHO. Additionally, Stanford’s own REAP organization has put efforts into giving medical supplies to rural chinese children. Another thing we can all do is to educate ourselves more on this issue and spread awareness. We are fortunate to be able to read this blog right now with internet connection, in the comfort of our own home. We have masks. And most of all, with the BLM movement taking storm, the most powerful thing we all have is a voice. Since March 2020, we should know by now that as privileged individuals, we should use our voice and resources to help those who need it most.

Here are some organizations who are contributing to the efforts in rural China.

WE- building schools in rural China

Save the Children - plans to build and keep children in rural china protected and healthy-

“Save the Children China has delivered 36,000 face masks to hospitals in Wuhan with support from local volunteers. The delivery follows China’s acknowledgment of the shortage of face masks, goggles and protective suits.”

Project Partner- help end poverty in rural china

Stanford REAP

ZhongGu Charity- giving computers to rural kids

Us! Spring Sprouts - We are doing mask donations for rural Chinese areas.

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