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Maternal and Child Nutrition in Viet Nam

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The prevalence of child undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies in Viet Nam is among the highest in the world. Despite some progress, maternal and child undernutrition remains a persistent social and economic concern.

  • 90% of the world’s stunted children live in just 36 countries, including Viet Nam.
  • While Viet Nam has made significant progress in reducing child underweight (by one-third in the last decade) stunting still affects more than one-third of Vietnamese children, with the highest incidence in rural areas and among ethnic minorities.
  • Deficiencies of the key micronutrients – iron, vitamin A, zinc and iodine – persist in Viet Nam and significantly affect child survival, children's growth and cognitive development and maternal. 

Efforts to reduce undernutrition, in particular stunting, must focus on women before and during pregnancy and in a child’s first two years—a time when significant damage occurs and nutrition programs are most cost-effective for the health of children and the economic and social development of Viet Nam.

  • Improved nutrition among Viet Nam’s population is achievable when proven interventions are effectively brought to scale.
  • Effective programs in Viet Nam and internationally include micronutrient supplements for women in reproductive age, particularly during pregnancy, deworming, nutrition education on breastfeeding and good complementary feeding, supplementary food for children 6-24 months and conditional cash transfer.  Significant focus and coordination is needed to bring these interventions to scale, and reach those in need.

Breastfeeding promotion, appropriate complementary feeding and vitamin A and zinc supplementation have the greatest potential for reducing child deaths and undernutrition.

  • Breastfeeding. In Viet Nam, all newborns should be put on the mother's breast immediately after birth and breastfed, without receiving water or anything else, until they are six months old.  Only slightly more than half of all newborns in Viet Nam are breastfed within one hour after birth and less than one in five of those younger than six months old are exclusively breastfed.
  • Vitamin A. Vitamin A supplements could benefit more children and mothers.  Currently, vitamin A is given only to children from 6 to 36 months, but in some areas vitamin A deficiency continues to afflict children up to five years of age.  Only half of children under five who need vitamin A receive it, and only one-third of mothers receive the recommended dose after giving birth.
  • Zinc. Every child with diarrhea should receive zinc tablets which will reduce the severity of the disease and prevent future attacks.  Currently, zinc treatment is not given to Vietnamese children with diarrhea.

Interventions to reduce iron and iodine are important for maternal survival and children's cognitive development, educability, and future economic productivity.

  • Iron. All pregnant women should receive and take iron-folate supplements to prevent anemia and improve birth outcomes.  Approximately 60% of women currently take iron during pregnancy.  A program selling weekly iron folic acid supplements to women of reproductive age has reduced the prevalence of anemia, and improved iron status during pregnancy and birthweights.
  • Iodine. All salt in Viet Nam should be iodized to prevent the goiter and other iodine deficiency diseases.  Viet Nam has made progress battling iodine deficiency and should not relax efforts to iodize salt.

The Lancet’s Series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition

The Lancet’s Series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition is a landmark series of research papers published in the world’s leading international medical journal that offer new information regarding the critical factors related to undernourished children, where and why they are undernourished, and makes recommendations based on evidence-based interventions to reduce undernutrition.

  • The five-part series reviews and analyzes the effectiveness and potential impact of nutrition-related interventions and policy options in developing countries and includes recommended actions to accelerate efforts to improve maternal and child undernutrition.
  • It follows a number of earlier important series from The Lancet, such as those on Child Survival and Neonatal Health, which have shaped policy and action in countries around the world.

The launch of the series in Viet Nam provides an important opportunity to draw national attention to this critical issue and what can be done to accelerate actions to improve maternal and child undernutrition.

  • Coordinated efforts to implement proven interventions and address the causes of malnutrition at the national and provincial levels will improve the health and well-being and future development of generations.

Undernutrition is caused by a poor dietary intake that does not provide sufficient nutrients and by common infectious diseases, such as diarrhea.

  • Undernutrition includes a wide array of effects including intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) resulting in low birth-weight; stunting, a chronic restriction of growth in height indicated by a low height-for-age; wasting, an acute weight loss indicated by a low weight-for-height; and Micronutrient deficiencies.
  • These conditions are most significant in the first two years of life, highlighting the importance of nutrition in pregnancy and the window of opportunity for preventing undernutrition from conception through 24 months. 

Undernutrition is a key factor in child development and has a long-lasting adverse impact on health, education and productivity.

  • Efforts to reduce undernutrition in children must focus on improved nutrition of women before and during pregnancy and of children during the first two years of life.  
  • Poor fetal growth or stunting in the first two years of life leads to irreversible damage, including shorter adult height, lower attained schooling, reduced adult income, and offspring with lower birth weight.
  • Children who are undernourished in the first two years of life and put on weight rapidly at later in childhood and in adolescence are at high risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases.




1 December 2017

Michel Sidibé
Executive Director of UNAIDS
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

This World AIDS Day, we are highlighting the importance of the right to health and the challenges that people living with and affected by HIV face in fulfilling that right.


Community spaces design contest for an exciting hanoi

Ha Noi, October 17/10/2017 - Aiming at improving the living environment and bringing culture and art to the community towards a better urban future, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) successfully developed the project “Promote participatory, community-based and youth-led approach in safe, greening public spaces in Hoan Kiem district toward a pro-poor, inclusive and sustainable urban development” (hereinafter called Public Spaces project) under the Block by Block program with Mojang, the makers of the videogame Minecraft.


Deadline for round 1: From 17/10/2017 to 04/11/2017 Extended to 9 November 2017


Harsh punishment for child offenders doesn’t prevent further criminality

The age at which a child, can be held criminally liable is a controversial issue around the world. Within Viet Nam, this issue is currently being grappled with in the Penal Code amendments. Some argue that a "get tough on crime" approach is necessary to punish children to prevent further criminality.

However, international research shows that because of their developmental stages, labelling and treating children as criminals at an early age can have serious negative impacts on their development and successful rehabilitation.


New Year Greetings from the United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. in Viet Nam


On the occasion of New Year 2017, on behalf of the United Nations family in Viet Nam I wish to reiterate our appreciation and express our warmest wishes to our partners and friends throughout the country. We wish our partners and their families in Viet Nam peace, prosperity, good health and happiness in the coming year.

As we enter the second year of the Sustainable Development Goals era, we look forward to continuing our close cooperation for the sake of Viet Nam’s future development; one which is inclusive, equitable and sustainable, with no one left behind.

Youssouf Abdel-Jelil
United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. in Viet Nam


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for World AIDS Day, observed on 1 December


Thirty-five years since the emergence of AIDS, the international community can look back with some pride.  But we must also look ahead with resolve and commitment to reach our goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

There has been real progress in tackling the disease. More people than ever are on treatment.  Since 2010, the number of children infected through mother to child transmission has dropped by half. Fewer people die of AIDS related causes each year.  And people living with HIV are living longer lives.

The number of people with access to life-saving medicines has doubled over the past five years, now topping 18 million. With the right investments, the world can get on the fast-track to achieve our target of 30 million people on treatment by 2030.  Access to HIV medicines to prevent mother to child transmission is now available to more than 75 per cent of those in need.

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