Vietnam's Health Care System
As Vietnam has grown and developed over the last two to three decades, so has its health care system. There is a decrease in the number of deaths due to health issues and an increased rate of vaccination through Universal Health Coverage (UHC). With much success for the UHC implementation, Vietnam’s health system has become a model to other countries. However, there is still a difference in the level of care between the rich and poor in Vietnam’s health care system.

Health Care and Hospital Systems

Business Monitor International (BMI) stated that health care spending in Vietnam in 2017 increased to 7.5 percent of gross domestic production, which is $16.1 billion. Meanwhile, experts forecasted it to grow 12.5 percent annually during a four-year period from 2017-2021, which would be approximately $20 billion according to KPMG. Public health care spending is expanding with social health insurance programs that projections determine will 58.1 percent of all health care spending.

Vietnam’s health care system is decentralized with the Ministry of Health at the central level. Meanwhile, the provinces, cities, districts and communities connect to the Ministry of Health. The four groups implement their own health policies and manage their own health care system and facilities. The Ministry of Health (central level) manages the health care system for the government as well as hospitals, medical education and research. Provinces and cities run hospitals, other health care facilities and health care-education programs with central oversight. Finally, health care facilities at the district and commune-level provide basic medical care with preventative services.

Universal Health Coverage (UHC)

Vietnam is a leader in implementing universal health coverage. This would cover medical and dental services as well as medicine and vaccines. The Global Monitoring Report on UHC by both the World Health Organization and the World Bank states that almost 88 percent of people in Vietnam have health coverage and 97 percent of the children received vaccinations. There is also a 75 percent decrease in the death of mothers through universal health coverage. Vietnam has reached health care goals (as recommended by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals) earlier as compared to other countries due to its strategy on using all that is available, including staffing and administration.

Public View and Poverty Gap

Vietnamese’s traditional viewpoint on health care services affects health care delivery. It is a common belief that larger health care facilities in big cities would provide better health care services through more specialized staffing and more robust technology and equipment. Therefore, people tend to overlook smaller local facilities in the countryside or in rural areas. This, in turn, is impeding faster and necessary care while incurring unnecessary, unknowing or avoidable high costs. Such a barrier would ultimately contradict the proposed health care strategy above.

Vietnam’s health governance body is working to change the public viewpoint on local community health by educating the public about the programs and charging local health offices to provide excellent care in order to build trust. Wealthy patients have better access and higher quality health care. As wealthy patients tend to live in big cities, they are closer to big health care facilities that are well equipped. Meanwhile, poorer patients often have to travel hundreds of miles from rural areas to reach better care. While private insurance gives patients primary and preventative medicine that would avoid high health care expenditures due to medical emergencies, wealthy patients have more opportunity to purchase private insurance for better care. Health care inequity leaves the poor at a disadvantage with higher chances for illness and a lower quality of care.

Support and Challenges for UHC

Vietnam’s universal health care is receiving support from the Working Group for Primary Healthcare Transformation. The group works to present and emphasize primary care services in provinces around Vietnam, as well as improve and expand those services moving forward. Harvard Medical School, a member of the group, helps with primary care structuring and management. Another member, Novartis, provides rural community health education outreach as well as technology and rural medicine education for health care professionals. For instance, Novartis’ Cung Song Khoe Program has provided treatment for many conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and respiratory disease, as well as education for local rural communities and health care professionals, totaling 570,000 people served in 16 provinces. However, there are still challenges that are holding back Vietnam’s health care system including a high number of smokers and adults with alcohol usage, as well as extreme air pollution and aging populations.

Despite drawbacks from public views, health challenges and the environment, Vietnam’s universal health coverage is holding strong and progressing with ongoing program evaluations, strategic planning, improved care quality and partnerships. Therefore, Vietnam’s health care system has also been growing and is standing tall among that of other well-mentioned countries. With that said, eliminating health inequity is the focus to improve Vietnam’s health care.

– Hung Le
Photo: Flickr

The Electrification of Vietnam 
Thirteen percent of the world’s population lacks access to electricity. This amounts to a whopping 940 million people living without electricity globally. People have made great strides in electrification. The year 2015 marks the first year in which the number of those without access to electricity fell below 1 billion, however, the world must continue efforts to address the large swathes of people continuing to live without this crucial resource. Electrification requires attention because energy access has a strong correlation with income levels and poorer households are far more likely to lack access to electricity. Due to this, access to electricity serves as an important social and economic indicator of poverty. Furthermore, electrification could be a cornerstone of poverty alleviation, economic growth and improving living standards. Here is some information about the electrification of Vietnam.

The Electrification of Vietnam

Vietnam’s rapid and total electrification is an impressive feat that has provided electricity throughout the nation. Since 2017, 100 percent of Vietnam’s population has access to electricity largely through the Vietnam Rural Electrification Programme. The program gave 82 million people access to electricity who did not have electrical grid access before. Vietnam progressed in its development agenda in efforts to provide better health care and improve overall welfare through its investment in electrification. Taking the time to understand the Vietnamese electrification process and its successes should allow people to apply these lessons in other regions where access to electricity is not as widespread.

Vietnam’s Electricity History

The Vietnamese electrification effort stems from the 1970s. After the Vietnam War and reunification, the Vietnamese infrastructure required a complete re-haul, electricity included. A major priority during this time period was connecting rice-producing areas to electricity for more efficient and modern industrial processes, as rice production was central to the Vietnamese economy. In the 1980s, Vietnam began to use renewable resources to power its rural electrification project. It did this in an effort to ensure that the focus was not only on urban economic development,  such as irrigation systems and other small rural industries, by building hydropower plants and corresponding high voltage transmission and distribution lines. Vietnam also enacted policy during this decade to support the shift in attention to rural areas. The Doi Moi Renovation Policy aimed to make electricity services more affordable and provide credit for rural consumers.

The biggest changes occurred beginning in the 1990s with the emergence of a clear state electrification strategy. One can see this in the Establishment of Vietnam Electricity, a large state-owned electricity company, along with other reforms, refocusing electrification programs on poor households and leading to a surge in rural electrification. This time period also saw the 1996 Resolution which also clarified the government’s goals, stating that Vietnam had a target of 100 percent of districts, 80 percent of communes and 60 percent of rural households to connect to the national grid by 2000.

The Vietnam Rural Electrification Programme

Aside from this, a huge part of Vietnam’s electrification in the 1990s was the Vietnam Rural Electrification Programme, launched in 1998. This program alone provided access to electricity to 82 million additional people. The program took a sustainable development approach to increase access, focusing on financing, institutional support and societal buy-ins.

The Vietnam Rural Electrification Programme receives its funding from a variety of sources including the central government, cross-subsidies made by charging urban customers a surcharge on each kilowatt-hour of electricity they use for rural development programs, contributions from rural parties, loans from commercial banks and the involvement of international donors including the Japanese government and OPEC.

The program garnered societal buy-ins and support for these projects through targeted program design. The success of the program was contingent on the training of local populations to assist authorities in planning and design so the system effectively served the community it aimed to aid. In the same vein, the program instituted the service agent model in running the projects. This method trained locals to do routine technical and commercial operations as well as regular maintenance. This not only reduces the operating costs of the electrical grid but also employs local communities, provides faster emergency response and fosters greater ownership of the electrical system by rural communities. Vietnam designed the entire program to include community participation in every phase. Because of this design, the program has been incredibly successful in increasing access and is an immense reason that Vietnam reached 100 percent electrification in such a short period of time.

While some pieces of Vietnam’s electrification journey are specific to the nation and its resources, such as access to hydropower, other nations lacking access to electrification can repeat much of the policy and programs. Others can learn much from Vietnam’s centralized planning and government investment allowing for the kickstart of the electrification project, as well as the local involvement in the implementation and use of diverse funding sources. Developing countries including Kenya at 63.8 percent access, Angola at 41.9 percent access and Chad at 10.9 percent access can model electrification projects after Vietnam’s, using renewable resources available in the nation’s regions. With such a successful example and proof that electrification is central to the quality of life and other modes of development including education and health care, the world must put more programs in place to increase access to electricity globally.

Treya Parikh
Photo: Flickr

Air Pollution in Vietnam
Air pollution in Vietnam causes major health issues that include respiratory disorders and heart diseases. There are also economic consequences that lower Gross Domestic Production (GDP) and slow down the entire growth of the country. People in Vietnam have heavily discussed the air pollution issue in recent years.

Effects of Air Pollution in Vietnam

  1. Air Pollution: Air pollution in Vietnam consists of fine particulates that can cause respiratory disorders, lung cancer, heart disease and stroke among many other conditions. Generally, exhaust from cars and motorbikes, factory emissions and coal plants cause air pollution in Vietnam.
  2. Causes of Air Pollution: According to the National Economics University (NEU) conference, the use of fossil fuels for 90 percent of power generation is the cause of Vietnam’s polluted air quality. The conference also mentioned that Vietnam is taking on manufacturing activities with high pollution emissions from more developed countries due to less industrial regulations and lower costs. Consequently, this causes an increase in smog and air pollution. Additionally, the United States Consulate and UNICEF Vietnam funded the Ho Chi Minh City governance to place 13 air monitors around the city. In the meantime, the city itself is replacing dated motorbikes.
  3. Air Pollution Lowers Vietnam’s GDP: According to Chairman Miura Nobufumi of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) in Vietnam, the air pollution crisis keeps foreign investors from investing in the country, which in turn diminishes the country’s economy. The country’s GDP in 2019 has decreased from 7.08 percent to 7.02, which translates to $10.82-$13.63 USD. The Vietnamese government is working to implement environmental rules, regulations and standards.
  4. Over 60,000 People Die in Vietnam Each Year: There were about 71,365 people in Vietnam who died of air pollution in 2017 which places Vietnam in fourth place within the region. The Department of Natural Resources and Environment reported that the Air Quality Index (AQI) was over 300, which means that pollution was at a very dangerous level. As a result, experts advised that people stay indoors. There were also fine air particles (less than 2.5 microns) that elevated three times above the acceptable threshold affecting people’s lungs and hearts. The Vietnam Minister of Natural Resources and Environment organized a system to address air pollution.
  5. Negligence Regarding Air Pollution: Amidst the dangerous air-quality readings with an average air-quality-index (AQI) of 202-240 in Hanoi, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment has only acknowledged the AQI of 256. It sent out an unintended announcement that the air quality would negatively affect human health. The Vietnam Environment Administration (VEA) did not speak up at all. News reporters asked to contact the northern Center for Environmental Monitoring (CEM). In the meantime, CEM’s director said she would get in touch with VEA to make a public statement. In the end, the local authorities did not implement any coordinated effort, emergency or preventative measures.
  6. Easing Air Pollution: Dr. Hoang Tung Duong, who is the Vietnam Clean Air Partnership (VCAP), stated that there should be close monitoring of businesses that emit large amounts of smoke and dust through their manufacturing activities and practices. He also recommends a limit on the use of motorbikes during rush hours and that people should cut back on driving during certain hours of the day in order to reduce vehicle emissions.
  7. Addressing the Air Pollution Issue: There are organizations around Vietnam that are helping address the country’s air pollution issue. The Vietnam Association for Conservation of Natural Resources and Environment (VACNE) formed the Vietnam Clean Air Partnership (VCAP). This partnership gathers partners and individuals to raise awareness and carry out activities to address air pollution. Partners include the cities of Danang, Haiphong, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, along with organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (HEPA), the Southern Regional Hydrometeorological Center (SRHMC), the Vietnam Register, the Institute for Environment and Resources (CEFINEA) and the Vietnam National University. VACNE and its partners worked with Clean Air Asia and U.N. Environment to draft a policy for vehicles, such as motorbikes and cargo-loaders. The policy should ensure a standard for vehicle exhaustion, fuel emission and battery-use efficiency.

There are many negative consequences of air pollution. As a result, many organizations around the world are helping Vietnam with this issue. Additionally, Vietnam is developing policies and measures to reduce the amount of vehicle and industrial emissions as well as household energy usage. Positive prospects are on the horizon due collaborations between local governments in Vietnam and foreign organizations.

Hung Le
Photo: Flickr

The Link Between Agriculture and Poverty Reduction
The link between agriculture and poverty reduction has significant documentation. Developing countries that have risen from high levels of extreme poverty have seen improvements in agriculture and an increase in farmers’ wages that cooccur with drops in the poverty rate. According to an OECD report, one can attribute 52 percent of poverty reduction to growth in agriculture incomes. In addition, for a measure of 1 percent GNI growth, agriculture contributed the most to poverty reduction. The policy that seemed to work the most was significantly increasing the protection of agriculture exports by reducing high taxes on exports and reducing overly inflated exchange rates. The greatest advantage of improving agriculture is that the poorest of society benefits the most. The lower the literacy rates, the stronger the poverty-reducing effect.

Vietnam

Changes in Vietnam over the decades exemplify the link between agriculture and poverty reduction. It lifted its people out of extreme poverty by focusing on improvements in its agriculture sector. The poverty rate was northward of 60 percent in 1990 and fell to just 20.7 percent in 2010. Vietnam lifted an estimated 30 million people out of poverty in total. During that time, the government incentivized farmers to invest in their land. Instead of food shortages, the country was able to export its commodities at a surplus. Multilateral trade agreements formed, and the country moved from a closed economy to one open to trade. In the 1980s, Vietnam had food shortages, and today it is a major exporter of rice to world markets.

Indonesia

Some developing countries did not focus on developing their agriculture sectors. In addition to this, those countries experienced the opposite trend. In contrast to Vietnam, Indonesia slowed in poverty reduction last decade. Overall growth in this sector has been weak with researchers making little progress. The poverty rate declined by only half a percentage point in each 2012 and 2013, which was the smallest declines in the last decade. One of the reasons might be a recent trend where small farmers experience eviction from their land in favor of large companies. These companies then use the land for palm oil and rubber. However, are signs that suggest that the agriculture sector may be rebounding. In 2017, there was an increase in both agriculture employment and production. Currently, 32 percent of Indonesians work in the sector. Additionally, rice production went up to 75.4 million tons and up from around 70 million tons in 2014.

Guinea

Guinea is another country that focuses on other sectors for its economic growth. Mining makes up 80 percent of Guinea’s exports, and agriculture makes up the rest. Despite mining being a lucrative industry, it only employs 2.5 percent of the working population. Based on simulations using the 2014 population census, the poverty rate increased to 57.7 percent. Surprisingly, experts often cite Ebola as one of the causes, but low agriculture productivity is an equally large problem.

There is plenty of room for growth in this sector, both in terms of technology and land area farmed. In addition, farmers use very little agricultural inputs such as fertilizer and mechanization. In contrast, there are signs that agriculture is becoming more of a focus. The country has decided to invest in agriculture. In 2018, Guinea allocated 12.5 percent of its budget to agriculture, up from the current level of 7.3 percent. Additionally, IFAD and the Guinean government reached an aid agreement that will raise wages for 65,000 rural farm families and aims to increase family farm production.

For the poorest nations, choosing the sector to focus on reducing poverty is important. Evidence suggests that the link between agriculture and poverty reduction is strong. Developing countries that invest in the agriculture sector and promote policies that benefit farmers tend to fare better in this respect than countries that focus on other sectors.

Caleb Carr
Photo: Flickr

 

Vietnamese Mail-order Brides
The term mail-order bride is an uncomfortable term for many. The idea of ordering one’s spouse through the internet certainly goes against the established romantic norm that many people adhere to. However, the mail-order bride market is an international industry that one cannot ignore. Men and women, mainly in South East Asia, East Asia and Eastern Europe, employ the services of numerous matchmaking agencies and marriage brokers to search for their special someone. In South Korea, for example, some bachelors utilize these services because they are unable to find romantic relationships and partners in their country. Women from Vietnam, the Philippines, Russia and Ukraine constitute the majority of the brides in these services. These women often come to these international matchmaking agencies because they are trying to escape the poor economic realities of their home countries, such as being in danger of sexual and economic exploitation. This article will highlight the reality of Vietnamese mail-order brides in particular.

Is it legal?

Perhaps this is the first question that comes to mind when one hears the term mail-order brides. The answer is that it is legal so long as all parties involved are going through the proper channels. This is part of the reason why many international matchmaking agencies shun the term mail-order brides. Despite what the term might suggest, no one is ordering another human being for shipment to their doorsteps. Instead, many clients of these matchmaking agencies have to work with international marriage brokers (IMBs) to connect and meet their potential spouses.

Accusations Against the Industry

There are certainly many accusations that people make against the mail-order bride industry. Critics accuse the industry of being another form of human trafficking for three main reasons. First, many women who become mail-order brides come from countries with limited economic access for women. Second, some marriage brokers and agencies in the business are more concerned with profit than they are about the well-being of the women they claim to help find love and new life. Lastly, people do not hold IMBs responsible for the safety of the mail-order brides they introduce their clients to, leaving many mail-order brides in danger of violence and exploitation from their spouses.

When looking at the language that IMBs use to describe their brides, the critics’ concerns toward IMBs are understandable. In The Atlantic’s report on Vietnamese mail-order brides, there is a picture of a poster in Ho Chi Minh City which advertises a marriage broker’s service. The poster reads, “She is a virgin, she will be yours in only three months, fixed price, if she escapes in the first year, guaranteed to be replaced.” This kind of attitude toward women, which treats them as commodities, is also prevalent in online mail-order bride services. Bestasianbrides.com, one of the biggest online IMBs, highlights the submissiveness of the Vietnamese mail-order brides. Under “Reason 2: Submissiveness,” the website writes, “There are literally millions of Vietnamese singles, and almost each of them will easily remind you what a real woman is. A womanly woman, you know, feminine.”

About the Women

The majority of the women who sign up with matchmaking agencies do so voluntarily. For these women, marrying a foreign man is one of the sure-fire ways to escape poverty in their country. This, however, does not eliminate the possibility of these women receiving false information about their future husbands. This could lead to further exploitation and violence once these Vietnamese brides arrive in their husbands’ home country. In 2010, for example, a South Korean man murdered his Vietnamese bride after eight days of marriage. The husband did not disclose his schizophrenia when he met his bride through a matchmaking agency. In the BBC’s 2019 report, it reported on a South Korean man who physically abused his Vietnamese wife. Many Vietnamese wives in South Korea sometimes find themselves at the mercy of their husbands because their immigration status depends on them.

Improving the Brides’ Safety

South Korea, the U.S. and Vietnam are taking measures to improve the safety of these brides. South Korea requires all IMBs to register with the state and provide background checks and criminal history of their clients. If the IMBs do not comply, it revokes their licenses. In the U.S., the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) regulates international marriage services. This protects foreign women marrying American men by requiring the husband to disclose their prior marital, financial and criminal history in order to obtain consent for marriage from their spouses. Meanwhile, Vietnam has entirely outlawed IMBs.

The mail-order brides industry certainly paints a very ambiguous picture. On one hand, there are men and women who are desperately looking for their special someone. These men and women, driven by their desire to start a family, climbing the socio-economic ladder or simply finding love, turn to many international matchmaking agencies to find their special someone. There are certainly some heartwarming love stories that came out of these mail-order bride marriages. This still does not change the fact that there are people who treat Vietnamese women like tradable commodities. This attitude puts many Vietnamese women in danger of violence, exploitation and abuse. Countries such as South Korea, the U.S. and Vietnam are making efforts in improving the conditions of these Vietnamese mail-order brides.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Vietnam's Economic Development Costs
Once one of the world’s poorest nations, Vietnam is now gaining global attention for having one of the fastest-growing economies, subsequently lifting millions out of poverty. From a country where most of the people rely solely on rudimentary agricultural production to secure livelihood and use the majority of lands for farming, Vietnam is now undergoing a process of rapid industrialization and urbanization. It is at the crucial stage of transition from poverty to prosperity, allowing many to enjoy higher standards of living than ever before. However, the nation is paying tremendously for Vietnam’s economic development costs from rapid economic growth. The surging energy consumption, pollution from industrialization and urbanization process and the nonrestrictive environmental legislation are taking tolls on the environment and the natural assets of Vietnam.

Energy Consumption

The demand for energy is surging in response to the massive economic growth of Vietnam, impacting Vietnam’s economic development costs. Energy consumption in Vietnam tripled just over the past decade and many anticipate that the demand will increase by 8 percent annually until 2035. To meet the increasing energy demand, Vietnam is relying substantially on coal for energy supply due to its affordability. The coal share of the total energy supply grew from 14 percent to 35 percent in 15 years. Currently, 20 coal-fired plants are in Vietnam and the government plans to increase the number of coal plants to 51 by 2050. Vietnam’s dependence on coal is raising concerns as it is seriously harming the environment and public health. A study revealed that existing coal plants can cause as many as 25,000 premature deaths annually.

Facing a rapid rise in pollution, Vietnam is making great efforts in developing renewable sources of energy such as hydropower, solar and wind energy as alternatives to coal. Vietnam’s energy plans now include a renewable energy development strategy. The Ministry of Industry and Trade has recently offered incentives for renewable energy by paying solar projects between 6.67 and 10.87 cents per kWh.

A report in 2017 suggests that renewable energy could generate 100 percent of Vietnam’s power by 2050. However, in the short-term, it is difficult for other renewable energy to challenge coal as the main supplier of energy. Coal is still the most affordable option available at the moment for Vietnam to meet its surging energy demand.

Water and Air Pollution

The country’s industrial production has grown 15 percent annually in the last decade. However, rapid industrialization is polluting Vietnam’s water sources and air. Only 25 percent of industrial wastewater receives treatment, while the rest, estimated at 240,000 cubic meters of wastewater daily, discharges directly into lakes and rivers without treatment. The quality of air in urban areas is also deteriorating severely in recent years as a result of traffic and industrial activities. A report in 2013 showed that Hanoi’s air pollution received grades from unhealthy to hazardous for more than 265 days of the year. The level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentration was 1.3 times above the permitted levels in Hanoi, and twice the permitted levels in Ho Chi Minh City. This is detrimental to the public, especially children and the elderly.

The government and communities have started to pay more attention to addressing industrial pollution. Customers and associates are boycotting violating manufactures. Banks are also adjusting policies to avoid those clients on the environment blacklist, making it more difficult for those companies to access funding. The Vietnamese government has drafted a National Action Plan on Air Quality Management for the period of 2020 to 2025, including the plan to reduce 20 percent of NOx, Sox and particulate matter emitted by chemicals, fertilizer and petroleum production facilities. It is also drafting a separate National Technical Regulation on Emissions for the Steel Industry and the Environmental Law that includes air quality management requirements.

Vietnam’s Reforms

Vietnam has been pursuing reforms and investments to promote green growth and sustainable development with the support of the World Bank. Many projects have achieved notable results in promoting this sustainability agenda and mitigating the high environmental cost of Vietnam’s rapid economic growth. The Vietnam Renewable Energy Development Project has successfully expanded the usage of renewable energy, generating nearly 10 percent of Vietnam’s power. The Vietnam Industrial Pollution Management Project has significantly improved compliance with wastewater treatment regulations in four industrial zones in Vietnam. The percentage of industrial zones compliant with wastewater treatment regulations grew from less than 30 percent to 72 percent between 2012 and 2018.

This information about Vietnam’s economic development costs shows that despite many challenges still facing the country, the government is taking great strides to promote sustainable development with attention to ecological conservation. Raising public awareness and support for environmental conservation while strengthening the capacity for environmental development planning through legislation and investment is crucial in this stage of Vietnam’s economic development.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

 

 

10 Facts about Sanitation in VietnamVietnam, once one of the world’s poorest nations, has seen remarkable growth after the economic and political reforms in 1986, transforming it into a middle-income country with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. The rapid economic expansion has lifted millions out of poverty and provided them with access to services and goods that improve the quality of life. However, Vietnam does not prioritize some important aspects of development which affects the most vulnerable and low-income communities in the country. Sanitation is one such aspect that the government has not properly attended to. While 99 percent of people in industrialized nations have access to improved sanitation, only 69 percent of Vietnamese people had such access in 2006. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Vietnam.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Vietnam

  1. Vietnam has seen considerable progress in improving water supply and sanitation. From 1990 to 2011, the access rate to improved facilities of water supply rose from 88 percent to 99 percent in urban areas, and from 50 percent to 94 percent in rural areas. The access rate to improved sanitation facilities rose from 64 percent to 93 percent over the same period in urban areas, and from 30 percent to 67 percent in rural communities.
  2. Vietnam has experienced financial losses from poor sanitation. Vietnam lost an estimated $780 million due to issues related to poor sanitation. The cost of treating illnesses, losing income through reduced or lost productivity and losing time and effort finding access to sanitation facilities has driven the economic losses.
  3. Urban wastewater does not receive adequate treatment. The number of operational treatment plants is small, with the majority of households in urban areas relying on on-site facilities such as septic tanks or soakage pits and discharging overflow into waterways or drains. These household facilities tend to function inefficiently and rarely empty. Estimates determine that less than 10 percent of urban wastewater receives treatment. The drainage and sewage systems in Vietnam combine and often overflow in the rainy season, discharging waste into the streets.
  4. There are severe health impacts of poor sanitation. Poor sanitation and hygiene cause almost 11 million cases of diseases and over 7,000 deaths. Diarrhea is the main disease and also the number one cause of deaths from poor sanitation and hygiene, with reports of seven million cases and over 4,000 deaths. Vietnam estimates that improvements in sanitation and hygiene could reduce health-related costs by $228 million.
  5. Vietnamese people have limited access to sanitary latrines. As of 2011, only 55 percent of the rural population had access to hygienic latrines. In the Northern Mountains, Central Highlands and Mekong River Delta regions, 15 to 22 percent of the population do not have access to any kind of latrines, while 45 to 55 percent of the communities use unhygienic latrines. Only 20 to 30 percent of households own a hygienic latrine in these regions.
  6. Open defecation is still common in rural areas. While the national rate of open defecation has reduced to 1 percent, one in 10 people from rural areas still practices defecating in the open. The rate of open defecation is about three in 10 people for the ethnic minorities in poor and remote regions. This behavior contaminates the environment and water sources, making people vulnerable to various diseases. It is both a concern for health and economic reasons. Vietnam is committed to eradicating open defecation by 2025.
  7. Vietnam has provided an investment in its water supply. The public sector of Vietnam has invested $6.4 billion into 140 water programs and projects between 2006 and 2015. It is currently financing at $1 billion annually for the water and sanitation sector alone but still falls short of the investment requirements, which it estimates to be $2.7 billion annually. While public investment is declining, there are opportunities for developing and increasing the investment and operations of private sectors in Vietnam, as well as public-private partnerships.
  8. Vietnam is undergoing a Water and Sanitation Project for Schools in Vietnam. In 2016, UNICEF started the five-year project with funding from KAO corporation to improve environmental hygiene in rural areas of Vietnam. The project has renovated poor condition WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities in 18 schools and provided training and hygiene promotion to 170 teachers in 40 schools since its inception. One hundred and forty villages in An Giang Province have achieved Open Defecation Free (ODF) status. The project aims to reach 60 elementary schools by the end of the five-year period, benefiting 35,000 children in rural communities.
  9. Vietnam has international support and the SSH4A program. SNV collaborated with local partners to develop the Sustainable Sanitation & Hygiene for All (SSH4A) program from 2010 to 2013, which the Australian and the United Kingdom governments funded. The program has benefited 200,000 people from poor households in the remote areas of Vietnam, enhancing access to improved sanitation and developing hygienic practices.
  10. Women have challenges accessing water in Vietnam. Many women in rural Vietnam face discrimination and many challenges in accessing WASH services, resulting in unmet sanitation needs due to existing gender norms and low income. The Women Led Output Based Aid (WOBA) project, which Water for Women Fund and Thrive Networks support, aims not only to improve access to clean water and sanitation but also to create gender empowerment and ensure social inclusion in marginalized households.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Vietnam highlight some of the challenges and achievements that Vietnam has made. It is undeniable that the country has made considerable progress in improving access to clean water and sanitation services over the past few decades. Thanks to both the national and international efforts, Vietnam was able to exceed both the Millennium Development Goal target for water and sanitation after a 15-year commitment. Vietnam is now working toward the goals of eradicating open defecation by 2025 and providing access to safe drinking water to all Vietnamese by 2030. To achieve these goals, it is important not only to focus on constructing new facilities but also to instill behavior change and public awareness campaigns at the community level.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Vietnam
Vietnam, one of the four remaining communist countries in the world, is making remarkable progress in reducing hunger and poverty. From one of the poorest nations in the world with most of the population living below the poverty line, the nation has developed into a middle-income country. The poverty rate decreased from over 70 percent of the population to below 6 percent in just over 30 years after economic reforms in 1986.

Despite this positive outlook of the economy and the remarkable progress, not everyone is able to enjoy this new-found wealth. It is still a challenge for the government to tackle poverty for the ethnic minorities living in remote mountainous areas or areas prone to natural disasters where poverty most concentrates. It is also this population that has the most vulnerable and desperate individuals that become the victims of human trafficking. These 10 facts about human trafficking in Vietnam illustrate the possible source of the problem, as well as the attempts and efforts to fight against it.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Vietnam

  1. A Source Country: Vietnam is a predominant source country of human trafficking and also a destination country, mainly for Cambodian migrants. The Vietnamese government identified about 7,500 victims of human trafficking between 2012 and 2017, with 80 percent of the victims coming from remote ethnic communities. The statistics available are likely an underestimate due to a lack of an accurate system of data collection, as well as the unwillingness to report the exploitation of many returning victims.
  2. Victims: Victims of human trafficking often come from a poor, vulnerable or broken family and lack education or awareness of human trafficking. Traffickers often exploit the fragility of these people and utilize the internet, using gaming sites and social media to approach potential victims. Men might also entice women and young girls into relationships to gain their trust. These men then persuade the victims to move abroad where they subject them to sex trafficking or forced labor.
  3. Industries: Men and women trafficked from Vietnam often work in logging, construction, mining, fishing, agriculture, mining and manufacturing sectors. The employers of these workers situate mainly in Japan, Angola, Laos, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. There is also an increasing trend of human trafficking to countries further away in the Middle East and Europe. Recently, traffickers have sent an influx of people to the U.K. to work on cannabis farms.
  4. Children: Traffickers coerce children as young as 6 to work in garment factories under exploitative conditions. Within the country, they may force children to beg or hawk on the streets in urban areas. Reports also show an overall rise in the number of children trafficked and sexually exploited due to high demand in Vietnam.
  5. Child Sex Tourism: Vietnam is becoming a popular destination country for child sex tourism, attracting perpetrators from Japan, South Korea, the U.K., Europe and the U.S. This increasing demand has caused a rise in cases of child trafficking. A study has estimated that 5.6 percent of children in Vietnam have had experiences related to child trafficking. The Vietnamese government is putting in increased efforts to prevent sexual exploitation of children (SEC) by promoting and implementing children’s rights by devising new legislation, strengthening national children protection systems, as well as educating and raising awareness of the public on SEC-related issues.
  6. Prostitution and Domestic Servitude: A large percentage of Vietnamese women and children work in forced prostitution or domestic servitude through fraudulent job opportunities or brokered marriage. Traffickers often sell them at the border, and later on, transport them to China, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore for physical and sexual exploitations.
  7. Corruption: Corruption is pervasive in Vietnam. There is evidence showing officials and police taking bribes and colluding with organized criminals, traffickers included. A survey by Transparency International reported that 30 percent of people paid bribes to public services in Vietnam and that they believed the police to be the most corrupt institution in the country. This has tremendously complicated the efforts of tackling human trafficking.
  8. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The Vietnamese government is maintaining efforts in combating trafficking but has come across some issues due to lack of funding and inter-ministerial coordination. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized training courses and workshops to improve the capacity of officials to prevent human trafficking and assist the victims. The authority also organizes campaigns and distributes flyers to raise public awareness, targeting high-risk groups in border areas and vulnerable communities. The number of trafficking victims that authorities identified in 2018 was 490, a significant decrease from 670 in 2017 and 1,128 in 2016.
  9. Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation: Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, or Blue Dragon, is an NGO that addresses the human trafficking problem in Vietnam. It focusses on cases of forced child labor as well as trafficking for sexual exploitation of Vietnamese women and girls. The organization has rescued and assisted around 130 women and children annually from labor exploitation and sex trafficking. It also provides training for police, border guards and officials in child rights and combating trafficking.
  10. The Peace House: The Vietnamese Center for Women and Development manages the Peace House to provide support for victims of domestic abuse or human trafficking. It provides shelters, consultation, education and vocational training for women and children, as well as organizes campaigns to raise public awareness about gender equality and human trafficking. Since its opening, the Peace House has provided shelters for more than 1,200 victims and helped more than 1,100 re-integrate into society.

Many Vietnamese people’s desire for a better quality of life has driven them to the hands of human traffickers, subjecting them to physical and sexual exploitation abroad. These people are often initially the victims of poverty, vulnerable and desperate.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in Vietnam provide an overview of the problem and how Vietnam is handling it. Providing assistance and protection to victims of human trafficking as well as raising public awareness are all essential measures. A sustainable solution to combatting human trafficking is to get to the root of the problem: poverty. When good opportunities are available in local communities, there would be less demand to migrate elsewhere, thus decreasing the chance of falling victim to human trafficking.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Traditional Cham Script
Vietnam is a multiethnic state, home to a myriad of indigenous peoples in addition to the dominant Vietnamese (or Kinh) ethnic group. Centuries of conflict and cooperation, from Han Chinese domination, Vietnamese southward imperial expansion, Mongol invasions, French conquest and American intervention, molded the complex dynamics between these various groups. The Cham, inheritors of an ancient civilization with a culture and language all their own, are one of the unique groups of people within Vietnam.

The Marginalization of a Culture

Now diminished to a small minority in their central Vietnamese homeland, with much of the population diasporic, the Cham people seek preservation of their unique culture. Their cultural heritage includes their traditional script, an integral aspect of their cultural heritage and their link to the wider Indian Ocean sphere. The Eastern Cham, residing along the coast of present-day central Vietnam, preserved the traditional Brahmic alphasyllabary-based Cham script despite centuries of foreign domination. Unfortunately, decades of pedagogy neglected the classic script in favor of a simplified but less logical, modified one. However, efforts are underway to ensure the predominance of the traditional Cham script through digital means.

While the annexation of the northern Cham lands by Nguyen Vietnam in 1471 diminished Champa’s sovereignty, Cham culture persisted in the still unconquered regions to the south. Po Rome, a 17th century King of Champa, established a uniform version of Cham script. Originally developed for bureaucratic communications, the traditional script came into regular use in the everyday lives of the Cham people, particularly the Western Cham of present-day Vietnam.

Opponents of a Modified Script

Now, modified Cham script in educational institutions threatens the survival of the former script. Though both traditional and modified Cham scripts derive from the Brahmic alphasyllabary, the modified form introduces characters not present in the traditional script, creating substantial differences between the two. The Cham Textbook Compiling Committee, the organization responsible for developing the modified Cham script, seeks to improve primary school education through the use of the script, but in doing so precipitates pedagogical neglect of the traditional Cham script. Standing athwart the Cham Textbook Compiling Committee’s preference for the modified Cham script is a cross-section of the Western Cham, ranging from elders to students and intellectuals.

Opponents of the modified script’s ascendancy over the traditional script insist that favoring the former and marginalizing the latter will hinder the transmission of Cham customs and values from the older to younger generations. In turn, assimilation of the Cham minority into the hegemonic Vietnamese majority will accelerate. Defenders of the traditional script fear that loss of the traditional script may lead to the physical destruction of precious historical documents, as functional illiteracy will plague students taught the modified script. Moreover, traditional script proponents emphasize that the traditional script is more stable when one compares it to the less rule-bound character of the modified script. Continued relegation of the traditional script will compromise the Cham cultural identity and sever the people’s links with its history, all while replacing a rational system with an arbitrary one. Yet cause for optimism exists, thanks to multinational initiatives aimed at restoring the traditional Cham script’s predominance through the script’s integration into digital interfaces.

Digitizing the Traditional Cham Script

The USAID-backed SPICE program, with the company BREOGAN, made significant strides in promoting the use of the traditional Cham script in Cambodia through the development of digital technology. This initiative emerged from a policy seeking to secure at-risk languages by providing an easily-accessible online communications medium. In the case of Eastern Cham, the SPICE program designed a downloadable keyboard based on the traditional script, resolving the failure of earlier systems to reproduce all Cham phonemes with success.

With the increasing prevalence of online communication, even in more remote parts of the world, the creation of a digital access medium in an accurate rendering of the traditional Cham script will, through continual use, encourage greater use of it. The language’s classic script could undergo a revival and replace the modified script that dominates Cham schools in Vietnam. An open-access license for the font and keyboard further facilitates the SPICE program’s mission to revive the traditional script.

USAID is not alone in its efforts to restore the use of traditional script to daily Cham life. In 2015, the Faculty of Education of the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, designed a process to convert Cham in Latin script to traditional Cham script with minimal errors. Although traditional script fonts already exist in Vietnam, flaws beset these fonts. Moreover, before the completion of this study, no process existed in Vietnam to convert Cham Latin font to traditional Cham script font. The digital font conversion that the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia team developed accounts for the intricacies of vocabulary, grammar and semantics in traditional Cham script. Testing the accuracy of the process by converting the fonts of three poems, the study’s authors found 100 percent accuracy for two poems and 99.88 percent accuracy for the last. Many expect that the study will vastly improve the odds of traditional script preservation.

Developing methods that facilitate accurate online communication in the traditional Cham script promises to undo decades of the script’s marginalization. The future of the Cham people and their culture lies with their ability to communicate across the diaspora in their ancestral language. Before, the use of a modified script limited the exposure of the Cham youth to their written language. Now more opportunities exist for the younger generations to internalize the traditional written language. This progress will ensure that the link to their ancient cultural heritage lives on.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Education in Vietnam
Since the late 1980s, Vietnam has taken various steps to make good on its constitutional promises of free, quality education for all. However, there is still much work to be done for the southeast Asian country to ensure that every citizen has an opportunity to earn a quality education. These seven facts demonstrate the challenges and improvements made in regards to education in Vietnam.

7 Facts About Education in Vietnam

  1. In recent years, the Vietnamese government prioritized quality education nationwide. According to UNESCO, in 2010, the government spent 19.8 percent of its state budget on education alone. This number is significantly higher than the 13.7 percent spent on education across all of East Asia. However, Mitsue Uemura, chief of UNICEF Vietnam’s education section, calls for the government to ensure they are spending their education budget in the most efficient ways possible in order to reach the most vulnerable.
  2. About 95 percent of Vietnamese children are enrolled in primary school by the age of six. However, only 88.2 percent of those children complete their primary education. Historically, primary schools would often charge parents fees for textbooks, sanitation, traffic guards and even building maintenance. These fees made it near impossible for children in disadvantaged and rural communities to stay enrolled long enough to complete primary school. According to a CIA World Factbook evaluation, in 2001, only two-thirds of children were able to complete the fifth grade due to monetary challenges.
  3. Vietnam is successfully closing the enrollment gap between rural and urban regions. Specifically, the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta areas increased their net elementary intake of 58 and 80 percent in 2000 to 99 and 94 percent in 2012. In the same 12-year span, the intake rates for lower-secondary education in these areas grew from 69.5 percent to 92 percent.
  4. Despite various challenges, the percentage of children pursuing a secondary education in Vietnam has grown considerably over the years. In the early 1990s, only 1.7 percent of students 15 years of age and older completed at least a junior college education. That number increased to 4.4 percent within two decades.
  5. The number of students enrolled in institutions of higher education in Vietnam, such as universities, colleges and vocational schools, is increasing. In 2015, 2.12 million students were enrolled in these institutions, a large increase when stacked against 133,000 student enrollments in 1987. 
  6. Literacy among young adults in Vietnam is on a steady upswing. In 1989, Vietnam’s literacy rate for students aged 15 and older was 87.2 percent, and by 2015, the literacy rate for the same demographic was 94.5 percent.
  7. In 2012, Vietnam participated in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for the first time. The results demonstrated that education in Vietnam has a strong focus on instilling basic cognitive skills in its students, such as numeracy and literacy. Vietnamese students not only performed with the same success as countries like Austria and Germany, but they also outperformed two-thirds of the other countries who participated in PISA that year, ranking 17th out 65 countries. 

Educational reform, closing enrollment gaps, active teaching practices and the like have played major roles in the evolution of Vietnam’s education system over the last two decades. While there is still work to be done, Vietnam has taken large steps in recent years to prove its willingness to make quality education for all a top priority. 

– Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr