The city of Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in north-west China. Urumqi city is home to an estimated 4.7 million people, most of whom are Han but there is a significant Uyghur minority and other ethnic groups also present.
Urumqi is an important industrial and economic centre. A decade ago, tens of thousands who had migrated to the city for better work opportunities had lived in slum areas. The government has since committed to investing in improving their living conditions and access to health, education and other services.
Since 2000, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Urumqi.
The 2020 census recorded 376 million domestic migrants in China. When people move from rural areas to the bigger cities, they are assigned temporary status. This restricts them from accessing a range of services, including healthcare, housing funds and unemployment insurance.
Local governments may also prohibit migrant children from accessing quality education and from participating in college entrance exams.
For Uyghurs hoping to move to other cities within Xinjiang, obtaining a household registration is more difficult than it is for other groups.
Children are often the first to suffer the consequences of economic and social changes. For example, they suffer from a high incidence of sickness and malnutrition. In Urumqi and other rural and poor areas of China, 19.2% of children are malnourished. Child malnutrition includes not only undernutrition, but also ‘overnutrition,’ i.e., overweight and obesity.
Malnutrition can lead to stunting, that is when children are too small for their weight. This affects children’s brain function and their immune system, leading many children to perform poorly in school.