By Amelia Tsui
According to the World Health Organization, last year 6.3 million children died before reaching the age of five. That translates to approximately 17,000 deaths of children under five each day. While infant mortality has been steadily decreasing across the globe, this has been unevenly distributed between certain regions. In 2012, the global number of under-five deaths was 6.6 million, but almost 99 percent of these took place in low to middle-income countries. In developed nations, the majority of deaths by non-infectious diseases are among the elderly, whereas in developing nations, the majority occur among children.
Recognizing the graveness of this problem, Dezan Shira & Associates has launched a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative with the Surmang Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to combating infant mortality in rural China. Specifically, Surmang works to improve maternal and child health in Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province. The organization’s founder, Lee Weingrad, stresses that the combination of lack of access to health care services and the outsized responsibilities of women is the direct cause of the region’s high infant and maternal mortality rates.
“Over the years our firm has quietly gone about supporting a number of China-based charities and we are pleased to become more actively involved in the Surmang Foundation,” says Chris Devonshire-Ellis, Founding Partner of Dezan Shira & Associates. “I know Lee Weingrad and his team are doing a fantastic job under very difficult circumstances and recommend that other foreign-invested businesses not yet involved in CSR give something back to the Chinese community – the results are both tangible and beneficial.”
Located in southwestern Qinghai Province, Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture covers an area of 267,000 sq km and is the source of three of Asia’s longest rivers: the Yangtze, Mekong and Yellow River. Yak herding remains the fundamental way of life for Tibetans living in the region, which is home to dozens of peaks rising above 5,000 meters and a plethora of wildlife. While this might seem an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, Yushu’s remoteness creates difficulties for getting aid to its residents, as experienced in the 2010 earthquake.
This is where the Surmang Foundation’s organizational structure steps in to fill the gap. Surmang runs a private, stand-alone clinic in Yushu, staffed by a corps of 40 Community Health Workers. These workers, who attend births in remote villages and nomadic encampments, are the eyes and hands of Surmang, reaching those in even the furthest nomad camps. The success of the organization is manifested in the absence of maternal mortality in the Yushu region for the past three consecutive years.
Surmang has been active in Yushu for 23 years and its clinic in full-time operation since the year 2000, treating a total of over 150,000 patients. Currently, the clinic is staffed by two local Khampa Tibetan doctors, Phuntsok Dongdrup and So Drogha. In recognition of the exemplary services provided by the clinic in the wake of the 2010 Yushu Earthquake, the governmental Yushu Prefecture Public Health Service has partnered with Surmang to export its model of rural health care to four township hospitals.
Historically, the Chinese government has been wary of NGOs in ethnic minority regions like Qinghai and the influence of foreigners entering China for humanitarian work. The undeniable benefit of organizations like Surmang, however, has been promoting the gradual liberalization of restrictions in this respect, and boosting the viability of CSR projects in China.
Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira provides pro bono accounting and audit support services for specific NFP clients across Asia, ranging from expatriate cricket and rugby teams to international charities. To learn more about this program please contact the practice at email@example.com.
Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN.