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19 Jan 2020 0:07
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  •   Home > News > International

    Chinese woman who lived on 42 cents a day dies in south-western China

    The sudden death of 24-year-old student Wu Huayan, who was trying to save money to help her sick brother, sparks nationwide outrage over whether more could have been done to save her.

    A Chinese student who lived on 2 yuan (42 cents) a day and suffered from severe malnutrition has died after months in hospital in south-western China.

    Wu Huayan, 24, was a third-year vocational college student from Tongren, Guizhou Province, one of the poorest regions in China.

    She was living on a government subsidy of 300 yuan ($63) a month and looking after her younger brother, Wu Jianglong, who suffered from mental health issues, according to the local government.

    Both of her parents had died when she was younger.

    "The most difficult time was to eat only one steamed bun per day, I eat plain rice mixed with pickled chilli for five years, but there was no other way," Ms Wu told Chinese newspaper Chongqing Morning Post from hospital.

    "After our parents died, we had no income. I had to go to school and cure [my brother's] diseases, I would do anything to save money."

    In October last year, Ms Wu was admitted to hospital with swollen legs and breathing problems after years of poverty and food deprivation.

    She was diagnosed with having serious heart and kidney problems which required surgery.

    Ms Wu was reportedly 135 centimetres tall and weighed just 21.6 kilograms at the time.

    "Grandma and dad both died because they had no money to cure diseases. I don't want to experience that, waiting for death because of poverty," she told the newspaper.

    Ms Wu dies despite 1 million yuan donated to save her

    Her story quickly made international headlines and sparked a public appeal in China which subsequently raised more than 1 million yuan ($210,600) for her medical treatment through a national charity, China Charities Aid Foundation for Children (CCAFC) .

    Tongren Civil Affairs Bureau said in a statement that Ms Wu was getting an emergency relief fund of 20,000 yuan ($4,200) from the local government.

    Despite the outpouring of support from the public, Ms Wu's health continued to deteriorate and reports said she died in a hospital in Guiyang on January 13.

    Ms Wu's sudden death prompted nationwide outrage, with questions over where the money went and whether the charity and government could have done more to save her.

    The state-run newspaper People's Daily commented on social media, "is the patient's death an accident or is there something fishy about the charity".

    "If you're greedy for this kind of money, won't you feel guilty?" a user named Tademaoyu said on Weibo, criticising the charity.

    "Where has the Ministry of Civil Affairs been? There is no oversight of such institution," another user named Guishiguang said.

    The CCAFC, a national organisation governed by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, confirmed that only 20,000 yuan ($4,200) was sent to Ms Wu's hospital to cover the medical fees.

    "The remaining amount was expected to be reserved for surgery and rehabilitation treatment," the charity said in a statement.

    "We will communicate with Wu Huayan's relatives as soon as possible to understand their wishes and will explain the subsequent use of donation to the public in a timely manner."

    China has said it is determined to eliminate poverty in the country by the end of this year.

    Since the Chinese economic reform of 1978, nearly 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty, and the poverty rate has dropped from 97.5 per cent in 1978 to 1.7 per cent in 2019.

    © 2020 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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