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Tuesday, July 11, 2000, updated at 11:01(GMT+8)

Fewer Children, Better Life

To have fewer children and live a better life has become common among ethnic minority people in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

With assistance from local government, more and more people in the region have bidden farewell to their traditional nomadic lifestyles and begun to live better, happier, modern lives that allow them to take more care of their children's future.

Here is an example from one of the villages in Ewenki Autonomous Banner of the Hulunboir League.

Bada Mahanda, 29, and her husband are both people of the Ewenki ethnic minority, who are allowed to have as many children as they want.

However, the couple do not want to have more children. At present, they have a seven-year-old son and they feel that that is enough.

The local government welcomes their choice and has given them a tax deduction on the land they use and it has also given the family three cows.

The family now have 20 head of cattle, which means that they can earn over 1,000 yuan (US$120) a month from the sale of milk, a vast increase compared to the 400 yuan (US$48) a month in the year before last. The family have bought themselves some electric appliances, including a refrigerator, a tape recorder and a television.

"If I knew how to avoid becoming pregnant, I would not have had so many children," said 56-year-old Wang Fengying, a farmer from a village in Yijinhuoluo Banner of the Yikezhao League in western Inner Mongolia. She still clearly remembers the hardships she suffered to bring up her five children. "It was so hard, we were always short of food and clothing," she said.

Four of her children have married and , except for the oldest daughter who has two children, the other two daughters and one son have all volunteered to have only one child.

In her village, 105 households delayed their pregnancies and another 41 households volunteered to have only one child last year. The average per capita income was 2,445 yuan (US$295) in 1999, eight times more than in 1978 before people started to practise family planning.

The changes are due mainly to the hard working of family planning officials at grassroots level. These officials disseminate the State's policies and information about reproductive health and child-rearing. They also provide individual services for every household.

In Ewenki Banner of the Hulunboir League there are over 20,000 households of nomadic herdsmen scattered over 18,000 square kilometres of grassland.

The Banner government spent 50,000 yuan (US$6,000) on converting a mini-bus into a mobile service van equipped with necessary medical instruments for the family planning workers to use.

In the Yikezhao League, the provision of a quality health and pre-natal care service for local people has become an important issue upon which the achievements of local government are evaluated.

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To have fewer children and live a better life has become common among ethnic minority people in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

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