China relaxes birth restrictions for victim families of mudslide-hit county
ZHOUQU, Gansu, Aug. 5 -- China has relaxed its birth-planning policy for families who lost children in a massive mudslide that hit a northwestern county one year ago.
Surgery to "untie" the tubes of women, who'd had them tied as a result of past enforcement of the family planning policy, is now free in Zhouqu, officials said on Friday, on the eve of the anniversary of the mudslide devastation that left more than 1,700 people dead or missing in the county in Gansu Province on Aug. 8, 2010.
Liang Jianjun, head of Zhouqu's family planning bureau, said such operations had been performed on women from 27 families. "Some of these women are pregnant now," he said.
China's planned birth policy, which restricts most urban families to one child, grants favorable treatment to families in the countryside and ethnic regions. In Zhouqu, rural families can have two children while those in five Tibetan-dominated towns and villages can have three.
Families who lost their children are allowed new births to fill the "quotas," officials said.
"With people, we can have everything," said Yang Chaomei, the matriarch of a local family that lost all eight children in the mudslide.
Yang said she was pleased to see two daughters-in-law give birth after the disaster. "I hope I can have a grandson who will inherit the family line," she said.
Besides the policy adjustment, a government-affiliated association said it would give a cash subsidy of 10,000 yuan (1,550 U.S. dollars) to each of the 225 single mothers in Zhouqu who live below the poverty line.
The money was aimed to help these impoverished single mothers who struggle alone to support their families, said Han Keyin, head of the women's federation of Gansu.
Han said there are about 500 families with single mothers who need help. The federation also provides psychological consulting to help these single mothers deal with post-disaster mental trauma.
Meanwhile, reconstruction of the mudslide-hit county is in full swing.
Work crews have started 108 out of the 170 reconstruction projects, with a combined investment of 5 billion yuan, said Xia Hongmin, a governor assistant and head of a local panel in charge of coordinating the projects.
All the projects are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012, while the construction of residential buildings, schools, and medical institutes should be finished this year, according to the plan.
Xia said part of the old town struck by the mudslide would be rebuilt while two new districts outside the original town are being constructed. Many of the displaced families will be resettled in the new districts.
The authorities also earmarked 1.34 billion yuan to restore local ecological environment -- damaged by increased human activity and blamed as one reason for the massive devastation -- and to boost disaster prevention measures.
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