Chinese student who lived on 20p a day dies in poverty

Chinese woman, 24, who lived on 20p a day dies in poverty after being forced to starve for five years to save money to treat her ill brother

  • Wu Huayan from Guizhou died yesterday in hospital, her family revealed
  • The student was the sole carer for her ill brother after their parents died
  • She only had two yuan (20p) to spare a day on meals in order to save money
  • The 4ft 5in woman also had heart diseases, but could not afford treatment 

A poverty-stricken Chinese student who lived on 20p a day has died in poverty after suffering from complications caused by severe malnutrition, according to her family.

Wu Huayan, 24, weighed only a bit more than three stone before her death because she could not afford to buy food, it was reported. 

Ms Wu from rural Guizhou Province had only two yuan (20p) to spare each day on meals because she had to save money to treat her ill brother.

Wu Huayan from China’s Guizhou Province has died after suffering from complications brought by malnutrition. Her parents both died and she had to look after her ill brother

Ms Wu died of an unspecified illness yesterday afternoon in hospital, her family told Beijing Youth Daily. 

The news was confirmed by the government of Ms Wu’s hometown, Shabahe County, to Shanghai-based The Paper. 

The news of her death came as Chinese President Xi vowed to build an all-around Xiaokang, or moderately prosperous, society and eliminate extreme poverty by the end of 2020. 

It also came after a Chinese province last week declared that only 17 out of its 80 million residents were in poverty. 

She was only allowed to eat two steam buns or two bowls of plain steamed rice each day because of her financial situation. She ate as little as possible, leading her to be malnourished

Ms Wu stood 4ft 5in tall and weighed 21.5kg (47 pounds). 

She was a student at the Shenghua Vocational College in the city of Tongren. 

Her mother died when she was four and her father died when she was 18, leaving her to be the sole carer of her younger brother who is mentally ill.

In an interview in October, Ms Wu said she received 300 yuan (£33) per month from the local government as welfare, but with that money she also needed to cover part of her sibling’s medical bills. 

For the previous five years, she had lived extremely frugally, eating as little food as possible. 

‘I am not like other people who can ask for money from their parents after they spend it. I don’t have parents,’ she said in the video interview.

With an impossible two yuan daily food budget, she was only allowed to eat two steam buns or two bowls of plain steamed rice. 

‘I used to have plenty of hair. But in the third year of high school, my hair started to fall out in lumps, so did my eyebrows,’ Ms Wu said.

She added that her brother had to be hospitalised in the same year. 

Ms Wu, a college student, initially refused to see the doctor for her malnutrition out of financial concerns, her classmates had to carry her to hospital by force to ensure she would be treated

Good Samaritans reached out to help Ms Wu, donating more than £76,700 to her last year

Although the government covered half of her brother’s medical bills, she still had to borrow 5,000 yuan (£548) to pay for the rest.

In an interview with Guizhou City News, she said she knew she had been malnourished, but could not afford to go to hospital. 

‘I often felt no strength in my limbs, could not sleep and my feet started to swell,’ she said. 

After entering college, Ms Wu took a student loan and worked two part-time jobs in order to improve her financial situation. 

But in September, Ms Wu’s classmates demanded that she go to the doctor after seeing her frail physical condition. 

Ms Wu initially refused out of financial concerns, so her classmates carried her to hospital by force.

Apart from malnutrition, she was found to have problems with her heart valves and need surgery, which would cost more than 20,000 yuan (£2,100). 

Just when Ms Wu was about to give up medical treatment because of the astronomical cost, Good Samaritans heard of her story and helped her set up online crowd-funding pages. 

She thanked people who helped her for their generosity. She said she looked forward to the day when she could recover. Ms Wu died yesterday afternoon of an unspecified illness

Her story was also reported by local and national news outlets. 

Tongren Women’s Association shared her story on its social media account, encouraging the public to help her. 

Kind-hearted strangers donated 700,000 yuan (£76,724) to the student in the space of two days – more than enough for her surgery and nursing fees.

Tongren Civil Affairs Bureau then offered 200,000 yuan (£21,909) to Ms Wu as emergency subsidisation. 

The authority also promised to do whatever it could to ensure that Ms Wu received proper medical care. 

Ms Wu said she looked forward to the day when she could recover. 

‘I still want to write my articles and poetry. This is the life I want,’ she said. 

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