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World Water Day: Children's Photo Exhibit in China Reflects Needs for Clean and Safe Living Conditions in Rural Villages
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Shilpika Das
March 19, 2007

Slide Show
View the photo exhibit: 'Child's Eye: Photos from Ningxia'
The American Red Cross is helping to reduce water shortages and use of unsafe, contaminated water in rural China, by ensuring the consistent supply of safe and clean water to thousands of communities. World Water Day, observed each year on March 22, is an annual reminder of the chronic water problem that developing communities around the world face, especially rural villages. According to China's Ministry of Water Resources, an estimated 312 million villagers suffer from water shortages or unsafe water contaminated by fluorine, arsenic, high levels of salt and other organic or industrial pollutants.

'Coping with water scarcity,' also the theme for this year's World Water Day, is exactly what the rural villages of China are learning to do – with help from the Red Cross. In honor of World Water Day, the American Red Cross and the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) have organized a photo exhibition, 'Child's Eye: Photos from Ningxia' in Beijing. The exhibition will feature images by child photographers, highlighting life through the eyes of children from villages where Red Cross supports water and sanitation projects in rural China.

In an effort to involve children in a creative exercise of self-expression, the Red Cross gave 200 disposable cameras to fourth, fifth and sixth-graders in the Southern Ningxia region to capture their world on film and document their daily lives. They were taught the basics of photography and asked to follow their instincts. The results were astounding, especially since none of the children had ever used a camera before. The photographs provided an honest and realistic glimpse into their daily lives.

"It's often so easy to get caught up only in the difficulties, the poverty, the limited access to clean water and the challenging environmental conditions. But, the warm hearts of the people we help are always an inspiration," says Ramsey Rayyis, American Red Cross representative in China. Professional photographers from China judged the contest and selected their favorites.

The exhibition, showcasing more than 40 photographs, will be held from March 22 to April 8 at the Chaoyang District Culture Center in Beijing. The event – sponsored by the American Red Cross and Safeguard, launched by Proctor and Gamble – will help children in remote villages reach out and share their experience with the world. As an encouragement to those who produced the best pictures, Safeguard will sponsor a week-long trip for six of the winners to Beijing. Safeguard is also supporting a new partnership with the Red Cross Society of China and will launch the 'Heath Initiative for Villages in Western China' on World Water Day.

The American Red Cross has been working to develop water and hygiene facilities in drought-prone north central provinces of China. To better meet adequate hygiene needs, the Red Cross has been building or rehabilitating latrines in elementary schools, and is installing running water taps there, to promote hand-washing campaigns in schools. Community hygiene information campaigns are educating communities at the grassroots level, with promotion of important hygiene practices, hand-washing and food safety – building them a safer and healthier future.

As part of the world's largest humanitarian network, the American Red Cross alleviates the suffering of victims of war, disaster and other international crises, and works with other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to improve chronic, life-threatening conditions in developing nations. We reconnect families separated by emergencies and educate the American public about international humanitarian law. This assistance is made possible through the generosity of the American public.

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