The industrial town of Qiqihar is located in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. It has over 1.6 million inhabitants and is a major economic and cultural centre. Industry, agriculture and the production of timber are the main sources of income for the province. Its location, on the border with Russia, makes it a busy site for trade. Qiqihar itself has been growing in recent years: as the economy flourishes, people from rural areas move to the city in search of a better life. However, many of these people have ended up living in slum conditions which are unsafe and where there is little basic infrastructure.
Since 1992, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Qiqihar.
Over 2 million people in the northeastern region live in poverty. At 8.4%, the poverty rate in Heilongjiang province is 2.7% higher than the national average. Amid a general property boom, housing supply is tight and prices are rising. Many low-income families therefore live in shantytowns under unfavorable conditions.
Many children have lost parental care. They live with their grandparents or with other relatives. The absence of a regular source of income means that families struggle to meet their children's needs. Not only do children lack nutritious food, but they also fail to receive an education, which will give them the chance to break the cycle of poverty.
Disability and poverty in China go hand in hand. Individuals living with disabilities do not receive the support they need to support themselves. An estimated 85 million people, of those five million children, live with disabilities in China. Most live in the countryside, where due to the absence of trained teachers and healthcare professionals, children with disabilities from a low-income background often lack access to quality education and healthcare.
In China, 85% of people living with a disability have not received education above middle school level. This often leads to lower productivity levels and unemployment.