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Speech for Mr. Jesper Moller, Deputy Representative, UNICEF Viet Nam at the Launch of the ‘Analysis of the Situation of Children in Ninh Thuan’

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Date: 21 August 2012
Event: Launch of the 'Analysis of the Situation of Children in Ninh Thuan'
Venue: Ninh Thuan Provincial People's Committee

  • Jesper mollerMr. Doan Mau Diep, Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs,
  • Mr. Vo Dai, Vice-Chairman of Ninh Thuan Province People's Committee,
  • Representatives of central and provincial Ministries and Departments,
  • Representatives of Ninh Thuan's children,
  • Representatives of the donor community, UN agencies, NGOs, civil society, research institutes,
  • Representatives of the media,
  • Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very honoured to be here today to launch the "Analysis of the Situation of Children in Ninh Thuan", especially as Ninh Thuan is the first province I am visiting in Viet Nam since I was appointed UNICEF's Deputy Representative a month ago.

Promises to children are made, kept and too often broken all around the world. In many cultures, children learn from early on that a promise is something that should be kept. The goal of our gathering today is to celebrate our commitment to building a better future for the children of Ninh Thuan. And it is of the utmost importance that we keep this promise. Children put high expectations on promises – even more when they are pledged voluntarily.

The report we are launching today provides a comprehensive picture of the situation of children in Ninh Thuan. It confirms the province's progress regarding children across a broad range of social and economic issues and its socio-economic development achievements in recent years. It focuses on building upon success and mobilising our collective will to get the job done. This Analysis is part of a series of reports currently being undertaken at the provincial level. These follow the same comprehensive approach as the national report, but allow for a more in-depth analysis, using specific provincial data. They also necessitate a close partnership with the provinces, both in preparing the report and in following up on its recommendations. Today is the culmination of long and intense cooperation as work on this document started in late 2010 and included a thorough research process and close consultations with local stakeholders.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ninh Thuan is demonstrating impressive leadership for its children: overall social expenditure in the province increased by more than 36 per cent from 2005 to 2009, with expenditures on healthcare, education and social welfare increasing by 114 per cent in this period. As the Analysis shows, this commitment to child rights is paying off, contributing to improvements in education, health and survival outcomes for children. More children in Ninh Thuan are now in school; birth registration, health insurance and child vaccination have become routine; child mortality has decreased, and many more children have access to clean water and sanitation.

Yet, there remains an unfinished agenda for children. Not all population groups have benefitted equally from socio-economic development achievements. Disparities remain and progress is necessary, particularly for disadvantaged groups such as children in the poorest communities, Raglay, Co Ho and Cham ethnic minority children, children with disabilities and children in need of special protection.

Compared to other provinces in the South Central Coast Region and even to Vietnam as a whole, Ninh Thuan still struggles with a high infant mortality rate, at close to 23 per 1,000 live births; the province has the fourth-highest rate of new HIV infections nationwide, at 34 per 100,000; a low percentage of rural and urban households use appropriate sanitary latrines (62 per cent of households) and there remains a persistently high stunting rate, with one in three children under five stunted. The 2009 Census indicates that there are much lower literacy levels in Ninh Thuan as compared to national and regional rates. The literacy rate amongst females over 15 years old in Ninh Thuan is recorded at 83 per cent, which is amongst the lowest in the country.

Ninh Thuan's rapid socio-economic development has further increased the geographic and economic mobility of its population, leading to various dimensions of behaviour change. One key negative impact is apparent from the province's alarming 'Sex Ratio at Birth'; at close to 111 male births per 100 female births, similar to the national rate but higher than the average for the North and South Central Coast Region. There is also a marked difference between the urban SRB in Ninh Thuan and the rural SRB. This phenomenon is raising alarms that the social, cultural and economic implications experienced in other countries in Asia could also be experienced here in southern Viet Nam. More emphasis needs to be placed on the promotion of the role of women and girls in society, improving their status and rights. Leaders and party member should play a key role in promoting gender-equality messages.

Furthermore, many women and children's indicators show that the Raglay ethnic minority group is in a particularly disadvantaged situation. This is exemplified by under-five child malnutrition rates and other maternal and child survival indicators; levels of secondary school attendance and completion; adult educational attainment and literacy; and employment opportunities for young people. Given that the Raglay constitute 10 per cent of the province's population and a sizeable proportion of poor people in the province, this is one of the main aspects that are closely being looked at in the report.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We must overcome these challenges if we want all Ninh Thuan children, irrespective of whether they live in Bac Ai District, Ninh Son District, or Ninh Phuoc district, and whether they are Kinh, Raglay, Co Ho or Cham, to equitably realise their rights as children and grow into healthy and productive members of Vietnamese society. Therefore, let us come together, celebrate past achievements and embrace the challenges ahead. I would like to highlight a few key recommendations from this report:

  • Firstly, we need to improve child and maternal health through, (1) improving the quality of reproductive health care services including maternal mortality audit ; (2) strengthening capacity and outreach of integration of maternal and child nutrition care services; and (3) expanding Community Led Total Sanitation approaches;
  • Secondly, we need to continue efforts to improve access to and quality of education by (1) investing in the universalisation of preschool education; (2) by improving transition rates between primary and secondary education, and (3) by introducing child and adolescent friendly school approaches.
  • Thirdly, we must ensure a protective environment for children. This can be done by (1) strengthening preventative measures to reduce the flow of children into child labour; (2) by strengthening counseling services for children, and (3) by developing a social work system.
  • Fourthly, to facilitate the participation of children in family and community affairs, the report recommends, (1) to expand the provision of safe recreation facilities in kindergarten and primary schools; (2) increase resources for youth clubs, and (3) support 'healthy Internet clubs' in urban areas.
  • Finally, we need to address data and information gaps by improving coverage and quality of data on child protection, child stunting; school enrolment and school drop-out, and ensure this data is disaggregated by sex, ethnicity and age.

The strong leadership for children of provincial authorities that we have witnessed through our many years of cooperation with Ninh Thuan makes me optimistic that the future is bright for the children of Ninh Thuan province. I call upon the leadership of Ninh Thuan to implement the key recommendations as identified in this Analysis, to ensure the data and information are used for the planning, monitoring and evaluation of sectoral plans and SEDPs and to ensure sufficient resources are allocated to address children's issues. UNICEF stands ready to assist in any way we can.

In conclusion, I do hope that with this workshop all of us, as representatives of line ministries, donors, UN agencies and NGOs will understand the agenda for action in Ninh Thuan, and hereafter, with new insights and renewed energy, will complement the province's efforts and muster the resources at our disposal in favour of children. The recommendations in the report are loud and clear, the time for action is upon us. From our side, UNICEF looks forward to further strengthening this valuable partnership and, together, build the best Ninh Thuan for all of its children. We all need to join hands to keep our promise to Ninh Thuan's children.

Thank you. Xin cam on.