Chinese Woman Who Lived on 29 Cents Per Day Dies of Malnutrition Complications

Wu Huayan

Severe malnutrition has led to the death of an impoverished Chinese woman who lived on just 2 yuan (29 cents) per day.

Wu Huayan, a 24-year-old student in the Guizhou province, reportedly scrimped on her meals in order to save money for her ill brother’s treatment, MailOnline reports.

Not being able to afford enough food, Wu became frail. She weighed only a little over 42 pounds before she died of an unspecified illness in a local hospital. Her death has been attributed to complications caused by malnutrition, according to local reports.

 

Wu, who stood 4 feet 5 inches tall, was a student at the Shenghua Vocational College in the city of Tongren. Orphaned by the age of 18, she was left to fend for herself and her younger brother who is mentally ill.

Her plight made headlines in China back in October 2019. Wu shared in an interview that the local government had been sending her 300 yuan ($43) per month as welfare.

Since her sibling’s medical bills took a large portion of the amount she received, she ate as little food as possible. She was able to survive in the last five years of her life, living in extremely frugality.

“I am not like other people who can ask for money from their parents after they spend it. I don’t have parents,” she was quoted as saying.

Her two yuan budget allows her only to eat two steam buns or two bowls of plain steamed rice each day.

“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,” she added.

When her brother was hospitalized, the government gave her some money to cover half of her brother’s medical bills. To pay for the remaining balance, she was forced to borrow 5,000 yuan ($725) from others.

 

Wu was aware that she had been malnourished, but she did not have enough money to get a check-up in a hospital.

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

Wu was able to go to college by taking a student loan and working two part-time jobs. It did not take long for her classmates to urge her to go to a doctor upon noticing her physical condition.

At the hospital, Wu was found to have developed issues in her heart valves that required surgery. The procedure would cost more than 20,000 yuan ($2,900) which almost led her to give up the medical treatment.

But when her story broke in the news and online, many helped her to set up crowd-funding pages. Tongren Women’s Association also shared her story on social media and urged its followers to donate to her.

People sent in donations and in just two days, they raised 700,000 yuan ($101,584). The amount was able to cover not only her surgery and nursing fees but also other expenses at home.

Wu was provided with emergency subsidization amounting to 200,000 yuan ($29,000) by the Tongren Civil Affairs Bureau, which also promised to provide her with proper medical care. In her last interview, Wu shared that she dreamed of writing articles and poetry after her recovery.

The news of Wu’s death comes amid Chinese President Xi Jinping’s commitment to building a moderately prosperous society and eliminating extreme poverty by the year’s end.

Feature Image via Kevin Wang

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