Improving health through hygiene


UNONE-387A global United Nations call for urgent action to address people's basic sanitation needs was answered by the Vietnamese Government in 2013 with local UN agencies helping to target equity-focussed interventions.

While Viet Nam has made impressive progress on improving sanitation coverage, doubling the proportion of rural and urban populations using improved sanitation facilities over the past decade, one-in-four people and more than half of ethnic minority groups do not have access to proper latrines with open defecation still commonplace in many rural areas.

As part of a renewed effort to drive progress to meet looming 2015 MDG targets and end a vicious cycle of disease and entrenched poverty, UN agencies in 2013 helped the Government implement a key initiative to meet the sanitation needs of poor communities.

The Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (CATS) programme left its mark on 483 villages across the country, providing approximately 4,500 new latrines to households in seven provinces. This UN-supported, Ministry of Health (MoH) community-based sanitation programme was also implemented in 150 poor households in Quang Tri Province's Cam Lo district, while 5,600 households benefitted from the establishment of clean water connections in the peri-urban areas of Cam Ranh and Lam Lo in Khanh Hoa and Quang Tri provinces, respectively, with UN assistance.

The year also witnessed the UN's continued strengthening of Government and communities' capacities to implement other water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices. More than 476,000 people without access to safe water benefited from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's UN-supported implementation of household water treatment and storage (HWTS) in 47 new communes, backed up by HWTS training of trainers for 130 provincial water and sanitation units, seven cascade training courses and 20 trainings provided on community-led total sanitation to district and commune representatives.

WASH was also seen through the lens of two other important areas of UN work, disaster risk management and climate change adaptation (DRM/CCA), with the UN entering into a strategic partnership with Danish International Development Agency and national partners to develop a national framework for the WASH sector and initiate provincial action planning in six provinces.

Communicating these WASH-focused initiatives was also a priority in 2013, with a Communication for Development plan at national and sub-national levels developed and backed up by three planning and implementation training events for 120 focal points across 63 provinces. Headlined by support from UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mr. Xuan Bac and the participation of ethnic minority children in Lao Cai Province, a communications campaign was implemented with two productions to promote hand washing, sanitation and safe drinking water disseminated via national and provincial TV broadcasts.

Implementation of water safety plans (WSPs) - developed with UN technical input - in urban areas was also scaled up in 2013 and supported by UN-facilitated trainings on advanced WSPs conducted in Da Nang and in Binh Dinh and Thai Nguyen provinces for the piloting of WSPs in rural areas. A circular on safe water supplies to guide the WSPs' implementation, especially in poor rural areas, was drafted and senior MoH and provincial water authority officials sent to Malaysia and the United Kingdom on study tours.

At a policy level, the UN stepped up its WASH advocacy programme in the shape of a position paper, produced with the MoH, delivered to the Prime Minister's Office to advocate for accelerating sanitation interventions to add momentum to the MoH's intention to apply for membership of the global Sanitation and Water for All forum. The Open Defecation Free (ODF) guidelines and manual developed by the MoH with UN technical assistance in 2013.

Fresh advocacy for increased community approaches to total sanitation was also

undertaken through the dissemination of community-led total sanitation (CLTS), which has resulted in 125 villages accommodating 30,000 people achieving ODF status since the UN's introduction of CLTS to Viet Nam four years ago. CLTS is being implemented in 30 provinces by NGOs and as part of the National Target Programme on Rural Water Supply and Environmental Sanitation 2012-2015.