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China

Eastern European Models Cash In For China's 'Singles Day'

Modeling in Beijing
Modeling in Beijing

BEIJING — These days, it is not rare to bump into blond, slim, pretty teenage girls on the streets of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The majority of them, typically between 16 and 22 years old, come from Eastern Europe and are working temporarily as models in China.

The pace picks up in the late summer and autumn, as China's cross-border e-commerce portals prepare their fashion catalogues for the Christmas season, but also for Nov. 11, China's so-called "Singles' Day," celebrated each year by a fanatic e-commerce shopping spree, China News reported.

As shown in a recent survey by Alibaba, one of the world's largest online shopping retail platforms, there are some 10,000 would-be female models from around the world inquiring about jobs in China.

Holding a work visa for 90 days, these young women come and go like beautiful migrating birds. Some of them work for runway events or automobile shows. But even more are those in photo shoots of e-commerce apparel, not only for foreign buyers but also for Chinese shoppers, whose aesthetic standards have become more and more westernized.

Competition is fierce.

According to zhihu.com, a Chinese question-and-answer website, 70% of these arrivals are from Eastern Europe, including 36% Russians and 22% Ukrainians. The hourly pay varies between 1,000-3,000 RMB ($144-$430), compared to average monthly wages of around $900 in Russia.

Marina is 16 and comes from Ukraine. She arrived in China in July hoping to make some pocket money during her summer vacation. She is one of seven young Eastern European models of a Chinese agency which houses them in a small flat in Hangzhou, where Alibaba's headquarters are. They all sleep in basic single beds. "This is my dream come true," Marina says.

Still, the competition is fierce. After being in China for two months, Marina has only found seven days of work: once for a catwalk, the others for prints or internet ads. She was paid 700 RMB ($100) an hour, quite a bit lower than the average quotation. "They prefer models with experience", she says.

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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