Agriculture Investments in Vietnam
Agriculture, forestry and fishery have been at the root of the Vietnamese economy for thousands of years. Recently, a trend of borrowing from banks like LienVietPostBank, AgriBank and BIDV by struggling farmers has allowed them to escape the poverty caused by the scars of war and colonial oppression.

These loans enable farmers to purchase reliable equipment and materials to grow their crops and yield a wider profit margin, hire more workers and cycle more capital to create stable income and community. The World Bank reported a drop in poverty from 16.8% to just 5% from 2010 to 2020.

Now the force of this agriculture boom is proving to be a vital element in the propulsion of the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, a whopping 1,640 new agriculture businesses emerged. This is largely due to the agricultural investments in Vietnam.

Why the Buzz? 

As a country with a long history of food shortage due to war, Vietnam is especially wary of movements in the food supply. As the COVID-19 pandemic hurt business and now the threat of the Russian-Ukraine war shocks economies globally, agriculture is emerging as the key economic pillar of society. In 2020, the country ranked among the top five exporters of aquatic products, rice, coffee, tea, cashews and cassava.

When the pandemic started to affect other sectors such as service, construction and industry, many in the southern provinces returned to work in agriculture and that industry flourished. The pandemic stunted poverty reduction but did not set it back. Most of the growth has come from the establishment of small-scale farms that maintain themselves by becoming food secure and self-sufficient. Most of the new farms are less than 1 hectare and provide ample sustenance for the families who work them.

According to the International Fund for Agriculture Development, economic growth in small-scale agriculture is two to three times more effective at reducing poverty than in other sectors. Agro-focused banks keep close contact with their loan recipients, monitoring income and circumstances that might affect the crop, as well as consumer trends. This has created a community atmosphere where people are working alongside agricultural investors in Vietnam, effectively lifting many out of poverty.

The Effects of Agricultural Investments in Vietnam

Vietnam News reported that Vietnam’s agriculture industry comprises more than 14,000 businesses, 78 unions, 19,100 cooperatives, more than 30,000 production groups and 19,600 farms. The success of poverty reduction and business growth in agriculture is due to many factors such as increased governance capacity, capital investment, socio-economic planning policies and other public services. The recent investment and the government’s sustained efforts to keep the agriculture business in good standing have played great roles in this reduction. Moreover, the multi-industrial approach has provided basic health care and early education through new government policies. There has been a remarkable decline in those living on less than $1.25 per day from 63.7% in 1993 to 16.9% in 2008.

This massive shrinking of the poor is a great stride. While there is still a rocky road ahead for the growing country, the uptick in food security due to agricultural investments in Vietnam is a promising guidepost for increasing the quality of life in the country.

– Shane Chase
Photo: Flickr

La Bonne EtoileTwo friends, Laeticia Hallyday and the French chef Hélène Darroze decided to create the charity La Bonne Etoile to improve the living conditions of Vietnamese children in need and then extend their aid to the rest of the world. The charity supports children and teenagers who are often orphans left behind and suffering from diseases or disabilities. It provides them with a decent quality of life, giving them access to care, education and vocational training, within a protective emotional framework.

Services Offered

La Bonne Étoile is a nonprofit organization that began in March 2012. The charity “builds schools, rehabilitates social centers, finances training workshops, provides support for health professionals in orphanages, subsidizes medical equipment and participates in emergency food aid in pediatric hospitals.”

The Thuy An MOLISA Center is a rehabilitation and vocational training center where 240 children aged 6 to 18 live in Vietnam. These children are mostly orphans. This Center offers them medical care, physical rehabilitation, access to primary school and vocational training adapted to their disabilities. It is a unique center in northern Vietnam that provides comprehensive rehabilitation (physical and mental) and trains caregivers in others in the region.

In five years, from 2017 to 2021, La Belle Etoile helped this center in many ways such as financing a new professional training workshop in pyrography, a dance class and a course on the hygiene of life and everyday gestures for children with a more severe handicap.

Beyond Vietnam

In 2016, the organization decided to expand its efforts beyond the borders of Vietnam. The charity began its interventions in France with a project to help children in great distress by funding protected hearing rooms within the hospital. These rooms are a reassuring setting for children so they can tell their stories without having to move from one place to another. In this context, La Bonne Etoile worked with Le Rire Médecin to bring joy to children through comedy.

La Bonne Etoile also wanted to devote its energy to helping children in Africa. In 2019, the charity decided to fully finance the construction of a school for refugee children of the village of Visiki in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to provide them access to education and the opportunity to evolve in good conditions to prepare for their future. In early 2022, the charity also took charge of building a maternity ward in the Visiki hospital.

Final Thoughts

La Bonne Etoile continues its actions to help children in Vietnam and the world. In October 2022, the charity organized a month-long event for its 10th birthday, in which people could buy raffle tickets to win gorgeous gifts and experiences while helping children. La Bonne Etoile has helped 2,000 children and organized 20 actions. According to the charity, 11 projects are in progress.

– Olivia Roy Fritsch
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Prosthetics in Vietnam
Though the Vietnam War ended 47 years ago, buried in Vietnamese soil, thousands of unexploded land mines, grenades and cluster bombs continue to injure or kill people. There are 100,000 amputees requiring prosthetics in Vietnam and about 80% are from landmines. Till today, 2,000 people are stepping on live landmines every year. In 2018, two expatriates founded Vulcan Augmetics, a social enterprise startup that utilized 3D printing and injection molding to create customizable and upgradable prosthetics. Its goal is to support amputees in developing countries and lower the cost of prosthetics.

Affordable Price

In developed nations, most amputees have access to social assistance and medical insurance covered by the legislation. In contrast, 95% of amputees in Vietnam have to support their own lives, with unemployment high up to 70%.

Rafael Masters and Akshay Sharma founded Vulcan Augmetics in 2018. One of their inspirations to start the company Vulcan Augmetics is to subsidize Vietnamese amputees with accessibility to high-functioning prosthetics when they lack quality insurance coverage.

Vulcan Augmetics combines traditional metal frames with plastic parts made through 3D printing. The innovation in filled materials controls prices of prosthetics at $1,100, making them more affordable than most prosthetic arms that cost $2,600 on average, explained Masters to KrASIA.

Sustainable Design

Another advantage of Vulcan Augmetics is to give amputees a say in developing artificial limbs, augmenting them to meet their own needs.

Rather than offering traditional fixed prosthetics, the company designed and produced flexible components for modifying and upgrading. Vulcan’s prosthetics plug and click together like Lego pieces, enabling rearrangement to suit the daily demands of a given occupation or task, according to KrASIA.

For the base model, there is also an adjustable mechanical device inside the hand with multiple functions, providing users the ability to do daily chores, said Masters to KrASIA. Going through the cheap and efficient entry-level ones, customers can upgrade to advanced models for more possibilities in life and work.

Broad Market

Till 2021, Vulcan has partnered with 17 major hospitals and clinics with orthotic and prosthetics services in Vietnam, offering new prosthetics to 32 people in need. It targets to have at least 50 users per month in 2022 and aggrandize its business to other regions in Southeast Asia, according to Youth Colab.

Positioning itself as a social enterprise, Vulcan Augmetics lists prices and detailed product information upfront on its website, so potential buyers can know what options are available no matter where they are.

For startups aiming to break down barriers to artificial limbs worldwide, this decentralized approach helps place the customer at the forefront. People no longer have to approach hospitals and clinics to find a prosthetic, but getting to see product options and collaborate in building prosthetics online without geographic hurdles.

Vulcan Augmetics plans to develop product lines for people with paralysis or weak muscles, and those without disabilities want to be more durable and flexible in special physical activities. For a long-term goal, the company wishes to serve 38 million disabled people globally in addition to providing prosthetics in Vietnam, according to KrASIA.

– Shiyu Pan
Photo: Unsplash

USAID Programs in Vietnam
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) began its relationship with Vietnam in 1989 with programs assisting disabled persons and has expanded its influence on Vietnamese society and its markets. The foreign aid agency primarily focuses on Vietnam’s economic productivity, education systems, health and environment, amongst other pressing issues.

Fostering Economic Growth

USAID programs offer support by improving the business ventures of Vietnamese enterprises and governance capacity. USAID programs are aiming to increase Vietnam’s economy to an upper-middle-income status by 2035 through efforts to increase productivity and competition amongst small businesses, address economic policies and emphasize sustainability.

Existing programs promote global trade and international commerce by stimulating competition in private sectors and developing leadership and management skills for provincial leaders. USAID programs in Vietnam create a further expanding market with small and medium businesses that cooperate with global supply chains. Boosting Vietnam’s trade reach beyond localities creates a more inclusive, productive and accessible market for vulnerable populations.

Efforts to increase sustainability go hand-in-hand with USAID’s environmental protection programs. Shifting reliance on renewable energy sources has been a goal of USAID in partnership with Vietnam Urban Energy Security (VUES) to stimulate investments and commercialization. The focus on sustainability and economic growth aims to provide opportunities for vulnerable populations in poverty to gain access to business ventures that can bring social mobility and stability.

Health and COVID-19 Recovery

USAID invested more than $1 billion in Vietnamese health assistance programs to prevent and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and zoonotic diseases in the past 20 years. Global health security projects aim to train health workers, monitor possible health threats from animals and/or contagions and prepare appropriate responses to public health emergencies that may arise in the future. For example, the One Health Workforce project will provide training at universities for almost 1,700 students in various health care disciplines – not only enhancing the job force with academic opportunities and skills for the next generation but also improving the health security of the country.

Vietnam has also received $23.4 million in COVID-19 assistance including vaccine doses, ventilators, emergency response systems and health facilities. USAID’s MOMENTUM project addressed low immunization rates and a lack of accessibility to COVID-19 vaccine doses in provinces without properly trained medical health professionals and resources due to geographic and socio-economic barriers.

In the first six months of its implementation, the program trained almost 4,000 staff members and placed 716 mobile vaccination sites in mountainous provinces that otherwise experienced neglect in terms of health security amid the pandemic.

Higher Education System Modernization

One step USAID programs in Vietnam are taking to provide access to knowledge and skills required for socio-economic prosperity is focusing on improving academic opportunities. USAID recognizes that in order to improve Vietnam’s status from its current standing as a lower-middle income country, the labor force would benefit from modernization and advancement in skills to keep up with an ever-changing job market.

The government is appropriating funds and creating partnerships between Vietnamese universities and American higher education institutions like Indiana University to improve academic quality, research and innovation in the Southeast Asian country. American universities will give nearly 150,000 Vietnamese students the opportunity to pursue academic endeavors that reflect the future of the job market through academic partnerships and socio-economic growth within the country.

USAID programs in Vietnam have reflected the strengthening relationship between the United States and Vietnamese governments with financial investments and support that could benefit the economy on local and international levels. Economic support, educational advancements and emergency relief that the U.S. provided could allow Vietnam to eventually become an independent and thriving country.

– Nethya Samarakkodige
Photo: Pixabay

Rural Poverty in VietnamVietnam has had incredible success in lifting a significant proportion of its population out of poverty. In fact, the poverty rate has plummeted from 58% in 1992 to approximately 5% in 2020. Vietnam even reached the Millennium Development Goal of reducing its poverty rate by 50% a full decade before the target date established by the United Nations. This widespread alleviation of suffering is the result of a systematic overhaul of government and economic structures, a program known as Doi Moi or “open door.” Even with all this progress, there is still room for new programs to continue the fight against poverty in Vietnam. One such program involves the use of cellphones and targets vulnerable ethnic minority populations, with the aim of reducing rural poverty in Vietnam.

Rural Poverty in Vietnam

Sprinkled along the rolling, verdant rice paddies of Vietnam are communities of rural families. These rural areas are concentrated with the remaining households that struggle in poverty. Ethnic minorities in these communities are particularly at risk of poverty. In fact, 57% of ethnic minorities in high mountain rural communities are impoverished.

However, one can still note visible progress in these communities. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Phan An, a local resident, recalls reading by oil lamp and bathing in flooded rice fields as a child. He and his family lived in Danang in a single room with no electricity or water. By his 20s, An had a computer, washing machine, flat-screen TV and refrigerator.

Cellphones, in particular, have been on the rise in rural communities. In the 1990s, Vietnam had “one telephone per 544 people.” A 2018/19 report shows that 89% of the population in rural Vietnam have a cellphone, and of this percentage, 68% own a smartphone. The popularity of this technology could be a key tool in tackling rural poverty in Vietnam.

A New Technological Solution

As part of the continuing work to end poverty in the country, Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) and the Cao Bang Provincial People Committee worked together with the World Bank to implement a new technology that specifically targets these vulnerable populations. In January 2019, the partners piloted the technology in specific provinces of the country where 90% of the population are ethnic minorities.

The new technology is an electronic payment program for social assistance benefits. Before the pilot program, Vietnam made assistance payments through an onerous cash system. The dispersal of the cash would occur on only two days of the month. This meant that those looking to collect their benefits would have to wait until the next month to receive their payment if they happened to be unavailable or otherwise ran into an emergency that kept them from getting to the local government office.

Not only was this ineffective for beneficiaries, but also for local officials. The process required that the relevant department make a payment list, call communal officials to collect the money and only then would the officials disseminate the cash directly to recipients.

The Benefits of the Program

The new program allows individuals to receive electronic payments directly to their cellphones. Local payment officials assist beneficiaries in setting up an electronic payment account. From then on, social assistance payments are deposited directly into the account and the beneficiary receives a notification on their cellphone that payment has taken place. From there, the beneficiary can either go to payment agents in their commune to make cash withdrawals from the account or the beneficiary can pay electricity, internet and phone bills directly from their phone. Beneficiaries can also transfer money to family members.

This pilot program eases the workload of government administrators. It also facilitates a quicker, more secure and much more convenient transfer of essential benefits to more than 3,000 citizens, most of whom are ethnic minorities. As a lack of financial capital is a key driver of continued rural poverty in Vietnam, getting benefits to those most vulnerable in these communities could be a catapult to even more dazzling success in reducing poverty in Vietnam.

– Grace Ramsey
Photo: Unsplash

Mental Health in Vietnam
Increased stress levels over shortages of food, medical supplies and long periods of isolation have been rising due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an August 2021 pandemic impact survey in Vietnam, 62% of surveyed people reported losing their jobs. Reduced work hours and online homeschooling have a significant impact on mental health in Vietnam.

History of Mental Health in Vietnam

Mental health in Vietnam carries a high level of stigma and taboo. In the Vietnamese culture, many believe that mental health is a misfortune. “Benh tam than” is the phrase that people use for mental illness in Vietnamese society and actually means madness or severe psychiatric disorder. Furthermore, psychiatrists in Vietnam are called “Bac si tam than,” which means “doctors who treat madness.”

This use of words shows that mental health carries a stigma — society considers individuals suffering from mental illness as “wild, unpredictable and dangerous people ” who are “daien” and “khung,” which translates to “crazy” and “nuts.” This stigma reflects the biases toward mental health in Vietnam and makes people suffering from mental health issues in Vietnam reluctant to seek help.

Vietnamese society often believes that negative circumstances, including illnesses, serve as punishments for previous sins. Many also believe that “angry ancestral spirits” possess people suffering from mental illness. Families often feel shame when a member of the family struggles with mental illness.

Statistics

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 100 million people suffer from mental health issues in the Western Pacific Region. In 2014, Vietnam noted 10 common mental disorders in the nation with prevalence rates between 4.2% and 2.45%, according to National Mental Hospital. Veterans who served in the war are most likely to have a higher rate of mental health issues, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A 2018 article says government data indicates that around “15% of the population requires mental health care services.” However, independent research suggests that the rate is 20% to 30% of the population. To prevent and cure mental illnesses, mental health needs more attention within the public health area in Vietnam.

Some of the top mental health problems throughout communities in Vietnam are anxiety, depression and alcoholism. More severe mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, are also present in Vietnam, according to We Bloom.

We Bloom

We Bloom is a nonprofit organization based in Indianapolis, Indiana, that understands that communities can grow and develop with access to essential resources and services to address their particular needs. Before starting its adventure in Vietnam, the co-founders of We Bloom, Kevin Espirito and Beth Kreitl, worked with many NGOs in the U.S. Its goal is to support communities in Vietnam with training, networks and fundraising in the areas of public health and education.

When it comes to addressing mental health, We Bloom has three focus areas: prioritizing high-risk populations, “training and developing professionals” and implementing a national awareness campaign.

In order to improve mental health in Vietnam, We Bloom is implementing a community-based mental health project to train professionals in diagnosing mental conditions and providing counseling to patients. To improve the mental health of children, We Bloom is implementing a school-based counseling strategy.

In March 2020, the organization launched a COVID-19 Vietnam Response project raising more than $15,000 for the people affected most by the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2021, We Bloom officially received its license to work in Vietnam and is hoping to launch more projects in 2022.

Vietnam’s mental health system is still evolving. With the help of current NGOs recognizing the need for change, people struggling with mental health issues in Vietnam will receive better support and resources.

– Alexis King
Photo: Unsplash

Agent Orange Affect Southeast Asia
During the Cold War, the policy of containment dominated U.S. foreign policy. The policy of containment is the concept that one can most effectively combat communism by fighting it whenever and wherever it appears. Vietnam came into the crosshairs of the U.S. because the U.S. feared the Soviet influence that was taking hold of the country. Evidently, this policy barely distinguished between neutrality and open hostility and led to the use of agent orange and the U.S. bombings of officially neutral Cambodia and Laos.

Cold War Bombs in Southeast Asia

From 1961 to 1975, beginning with the secret war in Laos and closing with the end of the Vietnam War, the U.S. dropped 2.7 million tons of ordnance, including 26 million cluster bomblets in Cambodia. The U.S. dropped more than 2.1 million tons of ordnance on Laos and 8 million tons of ordnance in Vietnam.

As of 2021, injuries and fatalities because of the campaigns number nearly 64,931 people in Cambodia, 25,000 people in Laos and more than 100,000 people in Vietnam. The crisis at hand is that the legacy of these wars is still severely impacting people living in Southeast Asia. A notable amount of bombs did not detonate on impact, UXOs (Unexploded Ordnances), and these UXOs are still taking lives in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam today. The estimated percentage of ordnance that did not explode that remain are respectively 25% for Cambodia, 33% for Laos and 10% for Vietnam.

Agent Orange in Southeast Asia

Agent Orange was a mixture of herbicides created to eliminate vegetation that the U.S. military sprayed in Vietnam and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a trail that spills over into Cambodia and Laos, with the intent of killing vegetation that guerilla fighters were using for cover. By the end of the Vietnam war, the U.S. had sprayed more than 11 million gallons of Agent Orange on Vietnam, with spray drifting into Cambodia and Laos.

The agent resulted in generations of birth defects and chronic health issues including cancer, heart disease, shortened or missing limbs and developmental disabilities that affect both those who had exposure to Agent Orange and their descendants. The damage from the usage of Agent Orange is extensive, for it still deteriorates the health of hundreds of thousands of people and their children in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and the U.S. in the case of veterans who served.

Ameliorating this situation has an added difficulty, the State Department has a split stance. The VA publicly concedes that Agent Orange spray did drift into Cambodia and Laos. Upon being asked about dioxin [Agent Orange], a State Department spokesperson responded that “The legacy of dioxin is a complex issue; and one that the U.S. and Vietnamese governments have collaborated on since 2000,” exclusively referring to Vietnam when Laos and Cambodia have also experienced the effect of how U.S. usage of Agent Orange complicates global efforts to right the wrongs.

UXO Removal: Cambodia and Laos

One State Department partner making a difference in Cambodia and Laos is the HALO Trust, a notable humanitarian landmine and UXO removal organization. Thanks in part to the advocacy efforts of the HALO Trust, there was an increase in Congressional funding for demining efforts in Vietnam and the region, $7 million for Vietnam and $25 million for the region. The combined efforts of the HALO Trust and their local community partners led to the remarkable achievement of dismantling over 575,000 landmines and UXOs in Cambodia and Laos.

Fighting Agent Orange: Vietnam

Dr. Charles R. Bailey, head of the Ford Foundation and agricultural economist, funded a study that led to a monumental breakthrough in fighting Agent Orange. Until this study, there was widespread fear and uncertainty pertaining to how to deal with Agent Orange. However, this study led to the discovery that dioxin [Agent Orange] was no longer a danger in the general landscape of Vietnam, rather it was concentrated only in a few hotspots. This discovery is what made it possible to clean up Agent Orange contaminations so the people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia can finally begin to heal from this wretched legacy of war.

Additionally, this discovery got the legacy of the Cold War in Southeast Asia into American policy circles, executive and Congressional. As Dr. Bailey recalled his time in Vietnam in the late 1990s, he found U.S. diplomats in the embassy were under the direction of the State Department to not even utter the words “Agent Orange.”

The nature of the debate has surpassed this point in the past 20 years, hence the bipartisan support that has come to the floor for funding UXO removals and Agent Orange clean-ups. As of 2022, the U.S. government has spent $400 million to address environmental cleanup and health effects of Agent Orange with the money going towards clean up and persons with disabilities in Vietnam since 1991. This development presents a promising shift in U.S. foreign policy, taking greater responsibility for the legacy of its war in Vietnam. A hopeful start towards extending not only UXO removals to Laos and Cambodia, but also a recognition of the need to fight Agent Orange in the countries as well.

Chester Lankford
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in Vietnam
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Southeast Asian country of Vietnam has made significant strides in reducing malaria cases. In 2008, Vietnam recorded 11,355 malaria cases. In 2017, cases dropped to 4,548, a 60% decrease. Between 2008 and 2017, malaria-induced deaths decreased by 76%. With the appropriate measures in place, malaria in Vietnam can soon become a disease of the past.

What is Malaria?

Malaria is a severe illness that transmits from mosquito bites of mosquitoes infected with the malaria parasite. Symptoms include fever, body aches, chills, nausea and vomiting. If untreated, malaria can be fatal. Vietnam is taking three crucial actions to combat malaria.

3 Actions to Combat Malaria in Vietnam

  1. Insecticide-Treated Mosquito Nets. Mosquitoes thrive in humidity and warm weather. In Vietnam, where tropical climate zones exist, it is essential to take deliberate actions to reduce the number of mosquitoes and mosquito bites in order to contain the spread of malaria. One can place Insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) over people’s beds while they sleep to shield them from insects. Insecticides that are safe for humans but toxic to mosquitoes and other insects coat the nets. These nets also repel mosquitoes, making mosquitoes less likely to get inside the home in the first place. The more households that own ITNs and use them correctly, the more likely that specific area will reduce the number of mosquitoes in the area, which would decrease malaria in Vietnam significantly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 50% of community members must use ITNs to experience an apparent drop in the mosquito population. A study that the World Bank conducted found that the use of ITNs for children younger than 5 years old in Vietnam stood at 9.4% in 2011. This is an increase from the percentage in 2006, which stood at 5%. If the use of ITNs continues in Vietnam, the prevalence of malaria cases will sink lower and lower.
  2. Artemisinin-Based Combination Therapy (ACT). ACT is an effective form of treatment used in malaria patients. It has contributed significantly not only to decreasing malaria in Vietnam but globally. Health care practitioners administer artemisinin with a partner drug and the two drugs work in conjunction with one another. While artemisinin “quickly and drastically reduces the majority of malaria parasites,” the partner drug tackles any remaining parasites. Between 1991 and 2014, Vietnam experienced a sharp decline in malaria cases attributed to the use of ACT. During this period, ACT treatment use rose by 10% and Vietnam noted a 32.8% decrease in malaria cases. As of 2003, ACT is free for all ages in the public sector, making treatment widely available to many Vietnamese citizens.
  3. NIMPE. The National Institute of Malariology, Parasitology and Entomology (NIMPE) is working to reduce malaria in Vietnam. The organization is based in Hanoi, Vietnam. Supervision teams travel to remote areas of the country where malaria is most prominent. In forested areas, people are more at risk of contracting malaria. In the early 2010s, about 50% of forest dwellers contracted malaria. Researchers at the NIMPE study microscopic analysis for the detection of malaria in certain areas. This is a crucial step in reducing cases. Sometimes, rapid diagnostic tests that citizens receive fail to pick up traces of malaria, even if the person has been infected with the sickness. Microscopic analyses provide a clearer picture of how many malaria cases are actively present. According to a senior technician from the Epidemiology Department of the NIMPE, Vu Thi Anh Tuyet, communication and awareness of malaria in Vietnamese communities is incredibly effective in fighting malaria. From 2018 to 2021, cases of malaria in Vietnam decreased by a staggering 90%.

Looking Ahead

Efforts continue with the aim to combat malaria in Vietnam. The country has made remarkable progress in reducing cases and deaths over the years. By recognizing and treating the disease, fewer infections will occur in the first place and Vietnam will have more productive citizens in good health to contribute to the economy.

Megan Quinn
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Vietnam
Elderly poverty in Vietnam is a significant issue considering that Vietnam currently has one of the highest rates of aging populations in the world. Right now, Vietnam is still a young country, despite the fact that its elderly population has increased from 4.9% in 1975 to 7.9% as of 2020. There is reason to have some concern over the aging population. Even just between 2009 and 2019, the elderly population older than the age of 60 increased by 2%. The World Bank has calculated that Vietnam could be the country that is aging fastest globally.

A Closer Look at Elderly Poverty in Vietnam

This aging is due to an increase in life expectancy, which rose by 21.6 years from 1950-1955 to 2010-2015, as well as a decrease in fertility rates in developing countries, from 6.1 children in 1950-1955 to 2.7 children to 2010-2015. By 2050, the percentage of Vietnamese people older than 60 could be one-third of the population, doubling from 11.9 million to 29 million. Among other implications, an aging population in Vietnam could devastate the quality of life for elderly Vietnamese people, especially those already in poverty.

The Need to Work

According to a statistic from the United Nations broadcasted by Channel News Asia, 40% of the Vietnamese elderly population are still working in some capacity, well beyond the normal retirement age in comparison to other nations. Even with work, the Vietnamese elderly’s typically low-income salaries cannot provide the benefits of proper care and shelter. According to CNA Insider, about seven out of 10 elderly people in Vietnam work in the “informal sector,” holding jobs such as trash collectors, taxi drivers and street vendors, all of which can be taxing on an elderly person.

The elderly in poverty in Vietnam have even more financial difficulty as they face higher medical costs with their growing ages. About 39.9% of the elderly in Vietnam exhibit some level of poverty and must rely upon pensions from their government for their basic needs. Yet, these pensions have limitations. Only about one in five of the Vietnamese elderly qualify for pensions; a person younger than the age of 80 must “be officially identified as poor” to receive benefits, a very broad title that many in poverty do not obtain. With age, this lack of support pushes into poverty many elderly who were not formerly impoverished.

Specific Vulnerability

According to a study published in the Journal of Population and Social Studies, despite an overall concern for the Vietnamese elderly, specific groups face an increased likelihood of enduring poverty in comparison to others. Elderly Vietnamese people who live in rural areas are more susceptible to poverty than those in urban areas. The elderly who do not identify with the majority ethnicity in Vietnam, Kinh-Hoa, are also more likely to experience poverty. Such disparities in poverty among the Vietnamese population have led to discussions about how Vietnamese policy can better support minority groups and those in rural areas in addressing the overall issue of elderly poverty in Vietnam.

Growing Support

Many organizations and nations are joining in the effort to alleviate elderly poverty in Vietnam. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency recently teamed up with the World Bank to launch an initiative to develop Vietnamese policy aimed at establishing new structures of state elderly care. This plan seeks to establish better social services to address the elderly in poverty in Vietnam. The initiative consisted of three phases of programs from August 2019 to April 2020 and considers the policies of countries like Thailand, which offers case studies of elderly policy. The former programs mentioned educated policymakers in Vietnam about new models of elderly care. Such a move by Japan also brings hopes of further cooperation between the two nations, which have traditionally had tense relations.

The United Nations Population Fund has also begun working with the Vietnam Committee on Ageing in order to offset the rapidly increasing older population’s effects on the economy. In doing so, the U.N. seeks to develop multiple programs that provide socioeconomic development within Vietnam while supporting the elderly who are in desperate need of government assistance. For example, the U.N. worked with Vietnamese leaders on a resolution in 2017 that called for “population work” to examine how people of different ages experience the rapidly aging population in Vietnam. The U.N. is continuing to support Vietnam with its vast data resources to better develop a policy for elderly care.

Furthermore, global institutions are making an effort to support nations’ elderly populations. The future is bright for the Vietnamese elderly in poverty, but much more work is necessary to ensure that they have a good quality of life. Supporting global institutions that aid the elderly in poverty can help in the fight against general global poverty.

– Rachel Reardon
Photo: Flickr

Gender Equality Reforms
Vietnam’s gender disparities have come under scrutiny in recent years in part because of the global push for gender equality. Despite the nation’s progress in closing the gender gap in both education and labor participation, inequalities still persist. Recognizing this phenomenon, the Vietnamese government recently renewed its Labor Code, reaffirming its commitment to achieving gender parity through gender equality reforms. The reformed Labor Code aims to advance gender equality in the workplace. Vietnam drafted its revamped Labor Code in 2019 to go into effect in 2021. Here are five of its proposed reforms to promote gender equality in the Vietnamese workplace.

5 Gender Equality Reforms in the Vietnamese Workplace

  1. Equal Pay for Equal Work. The new Labor Code limits the gender wage gap in Vietnam by tackling gender discrimination in the workplace. Vietnam’s 2016 Labor Force Survey revealed that women receive 10.7% less than men, with the gender wage gap standing at 8.1% for unskilled female workers and 19.7% for female employees with higher education qualifications. The amended Labor Code “maintains the payment of equal wages for work of equal value.”
  2. Equal Access to Jobs. As of 2019, legislation denied Vietnamese female workers “access to 77 jobs” on the basis of sex, pregnancy or child caretaking responsibilities. These “prohibited jobs include occupations that are heavy and hazardous such as in construction, mining and fisheries.” The amended Labor Code removes these prohibitions, and instead, gives women the right to choose an occupation suitable for them.
  3. Paid Paternity Leave. Only women workers in Vietnam receive paid parental leave to care for sick children younger than 7 years old, perpetuating the stereotype that women are the primary caretakers of their children. Because males “have the same capacity to care for children and the home,” males should be able to take this leave as well. As such, the new Labor Code “now entitles male employees to paid paternity leave” so that this responsibility is equal. Gender discrimination both in hiring and workplace practices hinders women’s abilities to contribute fully and fairly to the Vietnamese labor force.
  4. Addressing Discriminatory Barriers. The reformed Labor Code seeks to combat discriminatory barriers. The law includes protections against discrimination based on marital status, pregnancy, disability and more. Female workers can now take daily breaks to breastfeed children younger than 12 months old. During menstruation, women can take a 30-minute break.
  5. Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Vietnam also seeks to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Statistics show that women constitute 80% of victims of workplace sexual harassment. The amended law provides a specific definition of sexual harassment to ensure justice for victims, including any form of physical, verbal or non-verbal harassment. The government broadened this definition of the workplace to include a wide variety of “work-related locations.” Addressing sexual harassment in the workplace “will improve retention and productivity of all women workers.”

Striving for Gender Equality in Vietnam

By combating gender equality in the workplace, Vietnam has the potential to better its economy while advancing women’s rights. With reforms to improve gender equality, Vietnam aligns with global goals as the fight for equality dominates the global discourse. Aiming to achieve a work-life balance for both men and women dissolves gender stereotypes. Business owners, employers and employees can now rely on a strong legal framework against sexual harassment. More importantly, the adjusted Labor Code empowers women and inspires more female workers to join the workforce. These efforts will inevitably help advance gender equality in Vietnam.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Unsplash