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Speech by the UNICEF Acting Representative in Viet Nam, Mr. Jean Dupraz

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Date: 16 July 2010
Event: Conference on the launch of the communication campaign and building commitment to child drowning prevention in 15 provinces with the highest rate of child drowning
Venue: La Thanh Hotel – 218 Doi Can – Ha Noi
Speaker: Mr. Jean Dupraz, UNICEF Acting Representative in Viet Nam
  • Mr. Dam Huu Dac, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs;
  • Mr. Le Manh Hung, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Transport;
  • Ms. Tran Thi Binh, Vice chairperson, Viet Nam’s Women Union;
  • Ladies and gentlemen,

Drowning is the leading cause of injury related mortality. It accounts for about 50 per cent of injury related mortality among children and adolescents. In 2008, over 3,500 children and adolescents died of drowning. Half of these tragic deaths  occurred in the 15 provinces that are represented here today, with the highest number occurring in Thanh Hoa, Nghe An and Ha Noi provinces. In other words, this means that on average,every single day of the year, ten children die of drowning in Viet Nam. They die close to their homes and close to their playgrounds, often left alone without adult supervision and care.

Compared to other countries in the region, Viet Nam has the highest fatal drowning rate. This reflects the extent of the problem in Viet Nam, which requires urgent and strong action from all of us.

Therefore I am very pleased to see all of you here today - representatives from relevant ministries, Provincial People’s Committees, mass organizations and the mass media. We need your continued commitment to changing this alarming situation and to working together so that we can prevent children from dying of drowning.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Deaths and injuries due to drowning cause extreme grief for all the families involved. Still, drowning is preventable. Evidence has shown that creating a safe environment for children can help to save them from drowning. International experience has also demonstrated that legislative development and enforcement is one of the critical paths to reducing the number of deaths related to drowning.

I truly believe that everyone here today – as leaders at different levels – has a key role to play in developing effective prevention activities. Your commitment and action in developing and enforcing formal or informal safety regulations are essential to make living environments safe for children. You can help to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to injury prevention in general and drowning prevention in particular, at both national and sub national levels and across relevant sectors. As you take ownership of the issue, bring in local expertise to find solutions and take strong and concerted action, the involvement of all sectors in this process is very important.

I also want to acknowledge the role Vietnamese media has played as a strong and vibrant partner in the process. Through your articles and programmes, you are helping communities understand the urgency of the issue, realize the challenges they are facing and encourage people to be more active in making their home injury- and risk-free for children. I hope you will keep up this good work and continue to be agents of change.

Over the last couple of years UNICEF has continued to play its part by supporting the Government of Viet Nam to carry out a number of key interventions to prevent child drowning. This includes public awareness raising, environmental modifications, legislative development and enforcement, and life skills development including swimming and first aid training. We will continue to work closely with the Government in its efforts to protect children from injury in general and from drowning in particular.

Let me end here by extending our sincere appreciation to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs for its leadership in organising this conference. I also would like to thank all the participants, particularly leaders from the 15 provinces, for dedicating your time to attend this event and showing your commitment to child drowning prevention.

Thank you.