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UNICEF-supported programme brings hope to severely malnourished children in Viet Nam

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kon_tum_UNICEFKON TUM, Viet Nam, 13 October 2011– Two-year-old A-Thau lives with his family in a simple house in a remote village in Kon Tum – a central highland province of Viet Nam. The smallest of six children, he is mainly looked after by his elder siblings, as his parents are too busy working in the fields to care for him all the time. Low birth weight and a lack of nutritious food resulted in recurrent illness and when his parents eventually brought him to the district hospital with a high fever and breathing difficulties, he was diagnosed as having pneumonia and severe acute malnutrition.

A vicious cycle

Malnutrition is a serious threat to child survival and development. However, many parents in Kon Tum only seek medical advice when their children experience a critical health situation.

"My son has been small ever since he was born and I thought it was normal," said A-Thau's father. "I thought he would eventually start to grow like my other children. I didn't know that you could die from malnutrition."


Vietnamese cities embrace energy-efficient public lighting

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Increasing energy efficiency is central to the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help curb climate change in the country. The Vietnam Energy Efficient Public Lighting is an ambitious US$15 million plan, funded by the Global Environment Facility, UNDP, central and local government, and the private sector, to install and promote the use of energy efficient lighting across the country. Lighting accounts for 25 percent of all electricity consumed in Viet Nam.

Cities across Viet Nam are starting to embrace green and energy-efficient street lighting as they struggle with rising electricity costs and rapid urban growth. Using energy-efficient lighting helps
save power, reduces carbon emissions and cuts electricity costs.

Dr. Nguyen Thi Bac Kinh, senior technical advisor of the Vietnam Energy Efficient Public Lighting (VEEPL) project, which is supported by UNDP,says that in the past most Vietnamese cities did not pay attention to public lighting. “[However,] cities across the country have come to realize that efficient public lighting reflects the level of development and affects the quality of life significantly,” Dr. Kinh explains.


Paradise maintained – protecting the Con Dao islands

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A UN funded project has helped preserve the unique environment of the Con Dao islands and ensured that future development of the islands is environmentally sound and sustainable.

Bay Canh island in the Con Dao archipelago
Con Dao, 5 June 2011 – The fate of this 16-island archipelago about 180km off Viet Nam’s south-eastern coast – famed for its pristine white sand, aquamarine sea, coral reefs and virgin mangrove – has hung in the balance for decades. The island chain’s postcard prettiness would have been lost forever if developers had had their way. But environmental sensitivity has seemingly won the day.

A US$1.8 million coastal and marine biodiversity conservation project, funded by UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has instilled environmental awareness in the minds of local leaders and helped prevent development which would otherwise have threatened the future of the island chain.

“We are very pleased see that the project has enabled a paradigm shift towards sustainable development for the Con Dao islands. The project truly helps to protect the islands’ rich biodiversity which is of global significance,” says Dao Xuan Lai, head of the sustainable development unit at UNDP Viet Nam.


Improving the competitiveness of the lacquer value chain in Viet Nam

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Ms. Duong Thi Thanh Thuy received the award for the best Business Creation Exercise in the 2nd Empretec Workshop
February 2011 - Ms. Duong Thi Thanh Thuy, Director of Lacquerworld company, has recently participated in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Empretec programme. The Empretec programme promotes a methodology of behavioral change that helps entrepreneurs put ideas into action and helps business to grow. After participating in the course, Ms. Duong Thi Thanh Thuy commented: “This course helps to improve a lot of behaviors that include System planning and monitoring and taking calculated risks. Now I know how to make plan with a clear timeframe and know how to anticipate and avoid risk in the future”. 

Lacquerworld is among the 50 beneficiary companies selected under the UN joint programme ‘Green Production and Trade to Increase Income and Employment Opportunities for the Rural Poor’. The programme aims to increase income and employment opportunities for raw material growers/collectors and grassroots producers of handicrafts and small furniture, targeting 4,800 poor households in four northern provinces of Viet Nam, namely Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Hoa Binh and Phu Tho.


Reaching out to minorities in Viet Nam with midwives who speak their language

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Midwives who understand the language, the culture and the belief system of their clients encourage women from ethnic minorities to get antenatal check-ups.

Five to seven women still die almost every day due to pregnancy or childbirth in Viet Nam. Although the maternal mortality ratio has declined significantly over the past few years, there are still big differences between regions – from a low of 40 up to 410 deaths per 100,000 live births in some areas. The highest ratios are found in remote and mountainous ethnic minority areas of the country, partly due to the shortage of skilled birth attendants and health care workers in these areas. Cultural barriers also keep many of the women in these areas from using reproductive health services. To address this issue, UNFPA is supporting an initiative to recruit and train local women to become village-based midwives.

MA DU VILLAGE, Ninh Thuan Province, Viet Nam – After doing some chores on her small farm, Cha Ma Lea Thi Te puts down her farming equipment, washes her hands thoroughly, picks up a kit that includes supplies for an uncomplicated delivery and takes off to visit her clients. She is one of 49 graduates of the 18-month midwife training programme for ethnic minority women supported by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in three mountainous provinces.

Combining theory and practice, this pilot programme works to improve antenatal and primary health care services at village and commune levels, and thus contribute to reducing maternal and child mortality among ethnic minority people.

Right after finishing the training last March, Te, who belongs to the Rac Lay ethnic group, started to provide health care services in her village. She has quite a busy schedule now.


Helping Vietnamese youth protect themselves from HIV

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Students at Hoang Quoc Viet upper secondary school in Quang Ninh ProvincePham Xuan Tung talks eagerly and takes notes for his group during a biology lesson on HIV transmission and the virus’ replication in blood cells. This new type of highly interactive class is something Tung, a student at Hoang Quoc Viet upper secondary school in Dong Trieu District, Quang Ninh Province, clearly enjoys.

The class is based on a new, integrated reproductive health and HIV prevention curriculum for secondary school students that is being developed and piloted by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), with support from the United Nations and Save the Children in Viet Nam. Many students of Tung’s age in Quang Ninh Province, Quang Tri Province and Ho Chi Minh City are receiving the new pilot curriculum.


Speaking with ‘One Voice’ strengthens UN advocacy and communications

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comms_storyHa Noi, June 10 2010 - The launch of UNDP’s regional Human Development Report (HDR) for Asia Pacific in early March 2009 in Hanoi was an example of how the One UN Communications Team has facilitated a stronger and more coherent UN voice on key development challenges in Viet Nam.

The HDR focused on important issues for Viet Nam that relate to the work of multiple UN agencies: gender equality and economic power, political decision-making and legal rights. To ensure that the expertise and views of relevant agencies were included, the Communications Team coordinated a joint UN approach for the national press launch: an interagency panel consisting of heads of agencies from UNDP, UNFPA, UNIFEM (part of UN Women) and ILO, along with the UN Resident Coordinator and the UN Gender Advisor, shared their views and answered questions from more than 40 media representatives.

This approach strengthened the focus on the issues, with the UN providing a clear multi-dimensional perspective on gender in Viet Nam and representatives of each participating agency providing their unique insights.


UN joint monitoring mission helps ensure quality of Viet Nam’s 2009 census

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censusApril 2009, Hanoi - More than 40 United Nations staff from five agencies in Viet Nam (UNFPA, UNDP, UNICEF, UNIFEM and UNAIDS) joined staff from Viet Nam’s General Statistics Office and other partners to help monitor the 2009 Population and Housing Census in 21 provinces during 1-15 April of 2009. This was the first time that UN agencies in Viet Nam jointly monitored a national census, and their work underscored the importance of quality data for both the Government and the UN.

“These joint UN monitoring trips demonstrate how the UN Country Team is working together as one so as to better provide recommendations to the Government on how census enumerations can be further improved. Supporting the 2009 Census is a key priority for the United Nations as it will provide the Government with the detailed information required to undertake more robust socio-economic development planning for the next ten years,” said John Hendra, the United Nations Resident Coordinator.


Looking at poverty from a child rights perspective

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child_povertyHoa Binh, Viet Nam, May 2010 - Nguyen Thi Gai is a farmer living in Hoa Binh, a mountainous province in the north of Viet Nam. Her 15-year-old son died after he was seriously injured at a construction site, where he had been working to support his family. At the hospital, doctors found out Gai’s son had been suffering from malnutrition for a while. Gai’s family had never qualified to receive support from Government schemes as they live above the official poverty line. Yet Gai’s income was not enough to provide for her children’s education and nutritional needs. Her four children, three daughters and one son, only attended primary school and all of them started working during their teen years. 

Many children, like Gai’s son, are overlooked by poverty alleviation schemes in Viet Nam as the country still uses monetary criteria to measure child poverty. In order to receive support from the Government, a child has to live in a household which is defined as poor according to the national monetary poverty standard. In rural areas, that means a household with a total income of less than VND 200,000 (USD 10) per person per month.


Viet Nam radio drama helps reduce stigma related to HIV

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HCM City, November 2009 — As the first national radio soap opera that focused on changing the behaviour of young people in Viet Nam drew to a close, producers shared some of the 2,000 letters sent in by listeners, who testified to the impact the show had on their lives.

For instance, one woman wrote: I got married when I was 19. Some months after the marriage, I found out my husband was a drug addict. Two years later, I gave birth. My husband died when my child was a year old. It was only then, that I realized he had died from AIDS and had infected me with HIV. Very soon after, my child drowned, and this made me go crazy. I did not want to live. However, thanks to my family and the commune Women’s Union’s care and encouragement, I started to receive antiretroviral treatment, and my life changed. I hope Desire of Life helps other people who are suffering from either HIV or domestic violence to overcome their difficulties and live a healthy life.


Change begins at home

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Standing confidently in the middle of the room, Doan Thi Khuyen starts up the regular meeting with a fun drawing game. The topic for today’s meeting will be Reproductive Health and HIV prevention. The gathering, filling out the small room with over twenty participants from the Red Flaming Group at Kien An district in Hai Phong, is regularly interrupted with peals of laughter. This exercise helps to make everyone feel relaxed, and prepares them for the openness required in the upcoming discussion – a subject which is not at all easy to address.


Breaking through the glass ceiling

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UNDPMarch 2010, Hanoi - Nguyen Thi Thanh Hang, who is 33 years old and from Ha Noi, is one of the first women to have benefitted from a new UNDP project to empower talented women working in the public sector. Hang, who has been working at the State Bank of Viet Nam for nine years, is now pursuing an MPhil in development studies at the University of Cambridge, under a scholarship provided by UNDP and the Cambridge Overseas Trust. She expects to complete her degree by June and will then return to the State Bank – ready to take on a senior position.

Viet Nam has a relatively good track record – especially compared to other countries in the region – of empowering women. Extensive legislation and policy which supports gender equality is in place and Viet Nam, for instance, has more women in parliament than the UK and Canada. Yet, traditional attitudes continue to persist and there are still very few women in leadership positions. Across the country, women continue to face a glass ceiling in both the private and public sectors.


Building for the future

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Nhanhs_familyDong Thap, February 2010 - Thirty-six-year-old Ms Nhanh moved to Lung Hung A Commune 10 years ago after marrying her husband, who comes from the area. Now with two children, 10 and two-years-old, Nhanh is just one of the many mothers in the area that have benefited from the commune’s maternal health community outreach education initiative, part of UNICEF’s Provincial Child-friendly Programme (PCFP) being implemented in 6 provinces across Vietnam.

Co-organised by the commune’s 14 health workers and village motivators following UNICEF training and capacity building, each session sees the participation of between 20 and 30 women and addresses a wide range of maternal and infant health issues such as pregnant and postnatal care, disease prevention, nutrition and hygiene.

“We received a lot of good information to take care of our children’s health during the village communication meetings,” Nhanh said. “I learnt that I have to take iron tablets during the pregnancy up to the delivery date. Half-an-hour after the delivery I have to start breastfeeding and continue for the first six months. I also have to get my children  immunized and weigh them every month so I can enter their weight on their growth charts.”

One copy of the charts is kept by the parents and one by the health centre in order to monitor child nutrition in the commune, which is one of the most serious health threats for children in the area.

Innovative approach
The community education outreach initiative employs pioneering approaches to get its many messages across and, together with other aspects of the PCFP, has been credited with significant improvements in the health of the people.

The sessions primarily focus on reproductive issues, women’s health concerns, childcare and nutrition, thereby helping to tackle some of the most challenging health threats to the local community.

talknig_book_goodOne such approach is the use of the UNICEF electronic ‘talking’ health booklets – small, cheap and easily transportable flip page booklets containing illustrated key health messages. An electronic speaker at the back of the booklets reads out the messages on
each page to help facilitators conduct the educational sessions.

Developed in association with the Ministry of Health, the UNICEF talking booklets ensure  consistent message is taught at each session and help village motivators and the audiences to overcome any embarrassment they may have talking about sensitive issues in such a public forum. Many of the trainers are low-educated women from the local area and are not used to talking to large groups of people.

The talking booklets therefore provide an attention-grabbing tool that releases some of the pressure of ‘performing’ in front of crowds. Recorded in the local southern accent rather than the standard Hanoi accent normally used in TV and other state-sponsored educational outreach activities, the booklets also provide a message tailored to local conditions in language that locals can understand and relate to. In other PCFP-targeted provinces the booklets are made in local ethnic minority languages to ensure the localisation of the message.

“The equipment is very useful to get people’s attention,” said Mr Ngoan, head of the Binh Thanh Trung Commune Health Centre. “In the past we used to use normal booklets to  communicate messages but now we use the talking booklets in health outreach activities with the community and people really like this approach. Communities are actually requesting sessions with the talking booklets and are eager to attend.”

Local solutions
Under the PCFP, UNICEF trainers have introduced a new locally-based approach to health planning in the area.

“In the past, we had top-down training; now we have bottom-up participatory training based on the real problems facing particular areas,” said head of the Long Hung A Commune Health Centre Ms Lieu.

This is important as health threats vary significantly across the province and, if statistics are anything to go by, the approach is certainly paying off.

“There has been no major outbreak of diseases such as dengue fever or cholera in the area since the training and other more common water-bourne diseases have also been decreased,” said Ngoan. “By this time last year we had 25 cases of dengue fever, but this year there has been only 3.

Cooperation the key
A key factor contributing to the success of the health initiative has been the close cooperation between UNICEF, local authorities, the community and health workers. Indeed, today the Binh Thanh Trung Commune Health Centre is located in a brand new building with a range of new training, education and medical equipment thanks to an effective partnership between UNICEF, provincial and district authorities and the local People’s Committee.

Fresh_watersmallAnother example of the PCFP’s success can be seen in the 320-metre deep freshwater tubewell installed in Long Hung A Commune through an innovative cooperative approach between UNICEF, local authorities and residents. The well was built on land donated by a local farmer, with technical assistance and funding coming from UNICEF and the WATSAN (Water and Sanitation) National Targeted Programme.

Not a rich man by any means, 48-year-old Mr Tang donated the land for the pumping station to be built because he saw a pressing need for clean water in his community. With a large family of six children (five girls, one boy), he has a real personal interest in improving the health of the local people.

“We live in a very remote area that was heavily affected by the war and people have very poor living conditions here,” he said. “Conditions are very difficult. During the six months of the rainy season, water levels increase a lot, bringing a lot of dirty water to the area.”

“In the past we had to get dirty water from the river and treat it for 8-10 hours with allum in a jar before we could use it. During the dry season when the river level was very low, the water was very polluted and it often made people sick. Now with the new water system, it’s very convenient. When we want water, we just turn the tap and it flows.”

More time and money
Prior to the completion of the pumping station, water collection and treatment took at least two-to-three hours every day and women used to wash themselves regularly in the river, which led to a wide range of women’s health issues.

Using dirty water on a daily basis was also cashdraining on local families. Besides the monthly cost of the chemical allum, the cost of curing water-related diseases such as diarrhoea and skin diseases could eat into the household incomes significantly.

“Water supply has always been very difficult here and I wanted to help,” Tang said. “We
received international assistance from UNICEF and all I had to provide from my side was some land to get water for the community.”

Nhanh’s family is also one of the 100 households in the area to benefit from the UNICEF-sponsored well. Despite living literally next to a river, collecting and treating the river water used to consume a great deal of her time, and still provided no absolute guarantee of safe water for her family.

“Since we have the clean water supply system, my family is much healthier, we don’t get sick so often and don’t have to spend so much money on medicine,” she explained. “There are less women’s diseases among my friends and I don’t have to spend a lot of time collecting and cleaning the river water so I have more time to look after my children.”

Fourth generation local farmer Mr Hao was one of the early families to be linked up to the pipeline network and his house now sports a sparkling new flushing toilet and shower. With four kids aged 13-26, Hao has a clear understanding of the impact of the clean water system.

“My family has been living here as farmers for generations and I know how much pollution gets released into the rivers from the rice fields in the form of fertilizers and other chemicals,” he said.

“Our children used to get sick quite often, particularly from raw vegetables washed in the river water. I believe the new water supply system is very important for reducing diseases in the area.”

The well has a capacity of 400 households and each month new families are added to the water system through a slow expansion of the pipe network. It normally takes four years for a well to reach capacity but already its impact has been significant.

“Skin diseases, women’s diseases, dengue fever and water-borne diseases have all decreased since the clean water pump has been operational,” said head of the Long Hung A Commune Health Centre Ms Lieu.

With continued support, more parents like Hao, Nhanh and Tang will enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing the water their children are using is safe, clean and cheap.

Together with the community health outreach activities and other UNICEF initiatives in the area implemented under the PCFP, these families can look forward to a healthier, better informed and cleaner community for their future generations.

- Photos and text by Eddy McCall

UN launches new policy discussion paper to help Viet Nam respond to climate change

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Simon Maxwell,  former director of the Overseas Development InstituteHa Noi, 2 December 2009 - What are the main climate change challenges facing Viet Nam? What policies are needed to ensure that Viet Nam continues on a path of sustainable human development?  These are the main questions addressed in Viet Nam and Climate Change: A discussion paper on policies for sustainable human development which was launched today at a national climate change dialogue organized by the United Nations, the Viet Nam Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Oxfam.


Joining hands, raising voices

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December 2009, Hanoi - Sporting a huge smile, 14-year-old Nguyen Thi Ngoc Tuyet from HCM City is barely able to keep still as she describes how she was introduced to the issue of climate change. “I first heard about climate change about four or five years ago because I am a member of the CLB Khan Quang Do Journalists Club and I became very interested in this issue,” she explains. 

It’s the day before Tuyet and five other Vietnamese children leave for Copenhagen to participate in the Children’s Climate Forum and needless to say, they are all very excited.


Still volunteering at 50

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unv22 June 2009, Hanoi - In a departure from his usual routine, Indra spent a week of breaks and lunchtimes trawling the offices of other UN agencies in Ha Noi, collecting communication and educational materials. In the days to come, these materials would be put to use in displays at the volunteer fair – the second part of International Volunteer Day 2008 (IVD) celebration in Ha Noi.





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.