Rice ATMs in VietnamIn the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, entrepreneur Hoang Tuan Anh created a network of rice ATMs in Vietnam to help alleviate poverty and address food insecurity due to reduced household incomes. Vietnamese celebrity Dai Nghia drew inspiration from the initiative’s widespread success. On May 14, 2021, Nghia donated 15 tons of rice to distribute through four new rice ATMs in Cambodia. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, rice ATMs have proven successful in feeding those struggling with food insecurity in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Rice ATMs in Vietnam

The rice ATMs in Vietnam, coined by Tuan Anh, dispense 3.3 pounds of rice at a time to people in need. During Vietnam’s initial COVID-19 lockdown, about five million people became unemployed, pushing millions into poverty. The informal working sector took a hard hit as informal employment lacks the security and benefits that formal jobs promise.

The rice ATMs in Vietnam operate 24/7 to ensure food is always accessible to those in need. The ATMs were initially created as a temporary form of assistance during the pandemic, but Tuan Anh pledged to keep them going even after the pandemic in order to reduce hunger for impoverished people. In June 2020, Tuan Anh helped install seven rice ATMs in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with the intention of installing rice ATMs in 30 total locations in Vietnam. The entrepreneur aims to open 100 ATMs in the foreseeable future.

Rice ATMs in Cambodia

COVID-19 has harshly impacted Cambodia. Between June 2020 and January 2021, the World Bank identified at least 150,000 “newly poor” households, equating to about 500,000 people. The virus significantly impacted Cambodian industries such as “tourism, manufacturing, exports and construction,” which accounts for 40% of all employment in the country.

Rice ATMs in Cambodia arrive at a crucial time as the country continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The Phnom Penh Red Cross Society is in charge of distributing the donated rice to the four rice ATMs in Cambodia. The rice ATMs in Cambodia were developed and sponsored by the original creator, Tuan Anh.

Largely due to these slowdowns, the economic growth rate in Cambodia decreased by 3.1% in 2020, making it “the sharpest decline in Cambodia’s recent history.” The pandemic has disproportionately affected already impoverished people in Cambodia, causing the poverty rate to double. As the poverty rate is forecasted to reach approximately 17.6%, the rice ATMs serve as a solution to overcoming the increased poverty presented in Cambodia.

The Future of Rice ATMs

Vietnam and Cambodia have strong diplomatic relations. Tuan Anh’s rice ATMs and Nghia’s rice donation in Cambodia have only bolstered the already positive relationship between the countries. In May 2021, The Central Vietnam – Cambodia Friendship Association and Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO) donated more than $200,000 to Cambodia for COVID-19 relief efforts.

For the cities hit hard by the pandemic, the ATMs have served as a vital resource. The creation of rice ATMs in Cambodia will aid many people struggling with pandemic-induced food insecurity. Overall, the project is an example of the power of creativity and technological innovation in the fight against global poverty.

– Nina Lehr
Photo: Flickr

The COVID-19 Outbreak in Vietnam
Vietnam is currently undergoing its worst outbreak of COVID-19 with more than 4,000 active cases. The Vietnamese Ministry of Health has already sprung into action and developed a plan to make sure the situation does not get out of control. Despite the pandemic, Vietnam has managed to expand its economy due to its swift action. Here is some information about the COVID-19 outbreak in Vietnam.

Historical Context

Vietnam, like any country, is no stranger to disease and has always found pride in its epidemic response. In the early 2000s, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Vietnam the first country to become SARS free.

Since 2016, Vietnam’s hospital staffers have had to report notable diseases to a central database within a 24-hour period. The Ministry of Health is using this database to promptly track patterns of contagion within the country. This has been a key instrument in limiting the COVID-19 outbreak in Vietnam.

Current Statistics

Vietnam remains one of the leading countries in COVID-19 control with 4,809 confirmed cases as of May 20, 2021. As one of the bordering countries of China, Vietnam sprung into action when the pandemic began spreading. The first reports of COVID-19 cases in Vietnam began on January 23. This prompted the government to set up quarantine camps to isolate the patients as well as their close contacts.

Dan Nguyen, a Vietnamese citizen, had to stay in a quarantine camp upon her return to Vietnam. She uploaded her stay to YouTube, which documented Nguyen sharing her quarters with three others. Medical professionals checked their temperatures twice daily and provided everyone with three meals a day.

“It was cleaner than I expected,” Nguyen said. “The only thing that concerned me is that we don’t have the Wi-Fi here. The data is really slow that’s why we don’t have very excellent internet access.”

Vietnam had gone 99 days without any community transmissions, breaking the streak on July 25, 2020. However, the last week of July saw a 30% increase in coronavirus cases, which has kept steady ever since.

Hanoi, Bac Ninh and Vinh Phuc are the current leading cities for COVID-19 outbreaks in Vietnam. In total, 2,077 Vietnamese people have been receiving treatment either for COVID-19 symptoms, COVID-19 exposure or proven infection as of May 20, 2021. There have been 39 confirmed deaths.

How Vietnam is Handling the Pandemic

As mentioned, the Ministry of Health practices isolationism techniques, but one of its goals is to find a balance between concealment and economic productivity. The Ministry has limited non-essential vocations and other community-based activities while allowing essential businesses to continue their work. All businesses must adhere to standard COVID-19 procedures such as mask-wearing and disinfection techniques. Vietnam has encouraged its citizens to continue social distancing and only leave their homes for work, school or medical functions.

In addition, Vietnam has 123 medical facilities with laboratories that can test for COVID-19. The Ministry of Health plans to increase testing for active screening for those with COVID-19 symptoms. These symptoms would include cough/difficulty breathing, fever and respiratory inflammation. This screening process would make those who have a high risk of infection a priority.

The Vietnamese government officially closed its borders to everyone except for public officials and essential workers on March 22, 2020. All foreigners who enter Vietnam must quarantine for a period of 21 days. One can accredit this to an incident in which a carrier of COVID-19 tested positive upon their completion of a 14-day quarantine.

COVID-19’s Impact on Vietnam’s Economy

Reports stated that Vietnam was the top-performing Asian economy of 2020 with an expansion of 2.9%. This is one of the highest in the world. Economists such as Gareth Leather have suggested that the extensive and immediate COVID-19 response aided in preventing an economic recession. Leather reported, “By the end of 2021, we think GDP will be only 1.5% lower than it would have been had the crisis not happened. This is one of the smallest gaps in the region.”

Despite the COVID-19 outbreak in Vietnam, projections have determined that Vietnam will expand its economy by 6.5% in 2021. This is in part because of Doi Moi reforms that took place in the 1980s. This transformed Vietnam from an agriculturally based economy to a foreign direct investment-led manufacturing system that brought the country out of extreme poverty.

In addition, essential businesses have continued to provide high-demand exports of electronics and clothing manufacturing throughout the pandemic. Vietnam is the second-largest exporter of smartphones, an important feature of the COVID-19 pandemic which has increased telecommunication.

Vietnam’s Vaccination Goals

As of May 11, 2021, 892,454 citizens have received vaccinations. This has met 107% of Vietnam’s goal which was to have 917,600 individuals vaccinated. Though officials want at least 70% of Vietnam’s population vaccinated, the distribution of vaccine doses currently remains with medical professionals. Officials plan to purchase 150 million vaccination doses through COVAX. WHO, UNICEF, GAVI and CEPI should be delivering over 3 million vaccines to the country by the end of May 2021.

Looking Ahead

The deliverance of the vaccines provides Vietnam with a sense of hopefulness that the current outbreak will soon be a thing of the past. The country is looking forward to eliminating COVID-19 from its region.

– Camdyn Knox
Photo: Flickr