Quake Shocks Sichuan
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UPDATED: March 12, 2010 Web Exclusive
Bearing Hope
Bereaved mothers in the Wenchuan quake have babies again

The newly-built white houses with red roofs stand out in the sea of yellow rape flowers in Xinlong Village, Mianzhu City, southwest China's Sichuan Province. On a recent day, local villager Huang Changrong, 43, played with her 11-month-old son, showing him how swallows build their nests in the eaves.

Huang lost her pregnant 21-year-old daughter in the devastating 8.0-magnitude earthquake that occurred on May 12, 2008.

"My daughter was well-behaved. If the earthquake had not happened, my grandson would be more than one year old," she recalled with tears in her eyes.

"I'm blessed to have a son now," she said while breastfeeding her son. "I wish he could replace my late daughter in my heart, but it is impossible."

Statistics from the Sichuan provincial population commission show that more than 2,000 mothers ages 35 to 45, whose children were killed or disabled in the quake, have become pregnant or given birth since May 2008.

Free reproductive health services

Mianzhu City, where Huang's village is situated, is only 60 km away from the epicenter -- the quake left more than 10,000 locals dead. It was the first quake-stricken area to implement a free reproductive health services program, including counseling, guidance, health checkups, sterilization reversals and fertility treatments, all covered by multimillion-yuan government funds.

Wang Mei, head of the city's population and family planning bureau, started the program. She said it has been praised by the Central Government and promoted in other quake-stricken areas.

So far, 489 out of 896 mothers whose children were killed or disabled in the quake have had newborn babies; another 109 are pregnant.

"They were devastated by their children's death or disability," Wang said. "The program helped their mental recovery as well as home rebuilding."

According to Wang, the bureau invited Professor Li Shangwei, a fertility expert from West China Second University Hospital, to be the program's head counselor, providing free fertility lectures and health checkups for pregnant women in the city's townships and villages.

Healthy babies

Qu Mingxiang, 35, a resident of Minle Village in Tumen Township, lost her 12-year-old daughter Song Xue in the quake. Song rushed back to her shaking classroom to wake up her peers during the noon break when the quake occurred, and unfortunately, she did not manage to escape again, Qu recalled.

"I'm taking good care of all her belongings, including award certificates, birthday cards and toys," said Qu, who is in her seventh month of pregnancy. "I'll name my newborn Song Xue, whether it's a boy or a girl. I'll tell his or her sister's heroic story some day in the future."

According to Wang, all newborn babies under the program are in good health.

Wang's daughter is a master's student at Renmin University in Beijing.

"My daughter is a blessed gift and intimate friend for me. I know how painful it would be if one lost a child," she said. "It is the happiest thing for me to help these bereaved mothers have babies again."

(Source: Qianjiang Evening News, translated by CHEN RAN)

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