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Govt should be fully committed to children's safety

Since July 31, 21 children in China have drowned, sounding the alarm for the government to fully commit to improving children's safety and preventing similar incidents from happening in the future.

The latest accident occurred in central China's Hunan Province on Thursday, when five students at a local junior high school drowned while swimming in a reservoir in Wentang Township.

Drowning is one of the major causes of death among children in China. Figures from the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) show that drowning caused 57 percent of the total accidental deaths among children under the age of 14 in 2011.

Rural-urban disparities in these statistics are notable, as 83 percent of the drowned children were from rural areas, or four times the amount of urban drowning victims, according to the ACWF.

Many of the children who have drowned were "left-behind children" whose migrant worker parents left them with friends or relatives so they could find work in cities far from home.

An apparent lack of adult supervision and safety awareness contributed to the children's deaths, but the root of the problem lies in the uneven distribution of social resources, especially educational resources, between urban and rural areas.

During the summer, children living in cities have access to swimming pools and other recreational facilities. Various summer camps, training courses and other activities greatly enrich their vacation time as well.

However, children from rural regions don't have access to many of these facilities and activities. For them, swimming or fishing in ponds and rivers is a great treat.

Local governments should adopt stricter regulation measures, including setting up warning signs by rivers, ponds and reservoirs, and dispatching patrol and rescue teams to keep rural children out of rivers and ponds and to rescue those in danger of drowning.

To raise safety awareness among rural children and their parents or guardians, it is also necessary to spread safety education via community events, TV alerts or radio broadcasts.

Schools, volunteer organizations and communities should be fully mobilized to form a network to warn children about risks and teach them how to stay safe.

The government could also purchase services from non-governmental rescue organizations to expand public participation in protecting rural children.

In the long run, local governments have their work cut out for them in terms of preventing tragedies similar to those seen throughout this summer and ensuring that rural children can stay safe while they have fun.

To start with, local governments need to invest more in building swimming pools, gymnasiums as well as other sports and entertainment facilities in rural areas, and grant children easy access.

Relevant government agencies should also initiate or encourage more summer activities like art and music lessons to engage rural kids.

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