Many remember the Vietnam War as one of the most appalling in American history, and, as one can image, a harrowing chapter for Vietnam. The 1975 reunification of Vietnam established a brutally oppressive regime, striking fear into the hearts of those who lived in Vietnam. The result was a mass exodus of refugees now known as Boat People. Here are ten facts about Vietnamese Boat People who fled in search of better futures.

10 Facts About Vietnamese Boat People

  1. As the name implies, refugees relied on small boats. Under the new regime of the Republic of Vietnam, leaving the country was initially illegal. While this would change with time and the intervention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), escaping occurred illegally by sea. Many of those who left were families of farmers, fishermen, and people with other rural jobs who had access to boats that were well suited for sailing near shore but were not designed for travel on the open sea. The only option for leaving was by cramming families into small boats.
  2. Diverse communities were at risk. The war devastated the country’s infrastructure. While relief eventually came, it did not reach everyone. To make matters worse, in 1979 the Sino-Vietnamese War left those with Chinese heritage fearing for their lives. As there was already a precedent of executions and re-location to labor camps, people also fled the northern areas of Vietnam, at one point accounting for 70 percent of refugees.
  3. Fleeing Vietnam was dangerous. Partly because a large number of refugees from other countries were in the Indochinese area at the time, it is difficult to estimate exactly how many people fled Vietnam. However, experts estimate up to 1.5 million refugees escaped but a high estimate of 10 percent died from drowning, piracy, dehydration, or otherwise never made landfall.
  4. The crisis went unrecognized until refugee numbers grew. An estimated 62,000 Vietnamese Boat People sought refuge throughout Southeast Asia by 1978. This number rose to 350,000 by mid-1979, with another 200,000 having moved to permanent residence in other countries. At first, countries close to Vietnam accepted refugees and provided asylum, however many of those countries’ policies changed.
  5. Refugees often passed through multiple countries. Boat People initially sailed to countries closest to their own such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. The UNHCR established a temporary agreement whereby these countries, many of which began refusing asylum to further refugees, would serve as “first asylums.” This meant the refugees would only stay there temporarily until they could be screened and enter nations like the U.S. and Canada.
  6. Countries grew less welcoming to refugees as time went on. Despite the 1979 agreement, the number of Vietnamese Boat People increased in first asylum countries faster than they could process. Some estimate that for every refugee who left one of these countries, three more arrived. Hostility towards the refugees eventually increased, while political situations within each country further exacerbated tensions. Hong Kong, for example, refused to accept Chinese economic migrants but accepted Vietnamese refugees, causing conflict between the nations.
  7. Swamped by refugees to the point of exhaustion, Malaysia faced difficult choices when it came to Boat People. The situation worsened to the point that Malaysians pushed back one vessel having approximately 2,500 refugees on board. This was due in part to ethnic tension between Malay Muslims and the native Chinese. Boat People landing in areas largely inhabited by a Muslim populace further aggravated tension. As Robert Miller, the ambassador to Malaysia at the time put itA “From the Malaysian standpoint they have a very delicate ethnic balance in the country… they have an ‘ethnic fault line running the length and breadth of their country between the Malay Muslims and the pork-eating Chinese.” As a result, they, like other Southeast Asian countries, eventually refused to accept further refugees.
  8. “Full asylum” nations showed fatigue as the crisis continued. As more refugees entered the United States, people began to question whether the Vietnamese refugees were fleeing due to fear or financial situations. Suspicion arose and screening processes intensified as fewer nations wanted to house the refugees at all. As Miller put it “From the field we were always pressing for earlier decisions and decisions for bigger quotas. From the Washington perspective, they were pressing us to increase international cooperation –get more countries to take more so we could take less.”
  9. Thousands of refugees found stable homes. Though Vietnamese Boat People constituted a refugee crisis, it soothed over several years. Refugees who passed screening and inspection entered the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia able to begin new lives. While most ultimately flew the last leg of their journey on planes, at least one group made it to Australia by boat. The main solution for refugees resettling included working directly with the Vietnamese government, which eventually sanctioned departures from the country.
  10. Survival stories live on. Fleeing Vietnam was dangerous and offered no guarantee, but survivors found new lives in their new homes. Vietnamese immigrant communities eventually flourished. The UNHRC continued its work making transportation out of Vietnam legal and even encouraged. Nowadays, descendants of those who left in fear can return to discover their heritage and the stories of their ancestors, ensuring that the legacy of Boat People will live on. The preservation of their history and ongoing peaceful relations with Vietnam created a solution that finally materialized.

The fallout from the Vietnam War was, as the fallout from many wars, far worse than anticipated. These stories  and day’s refugee crisis show that people can be far less welcoming to refugees than we might hope. However, the survival of those who lived to tell these stories indicates that dangerous risks can lead to safer futures. These 10 facts about Vietnamese Boat People show that when accepted, refugees can thrive and improve relationships between nations.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in VietnamVietnam plans to eliminate all poor households and near-poor households by the end of 2020 through implementing vocational training, accessible quality education and affordable health care services. Poverty in Vietnam has been on a steady decline since 2010. In 2016, HCM City officials saw this decline in poverty as an opportunity to implement more poverty reduction efforts by taking multidimensional measures that tackle the main sources of poverty. Sustainable Poverty Reduction was created to eradicate all poor and near-poor households by 2020.

As of January, there were 103,000 poor and near-poor households in HCM City, less than five percent of all households. Since the project began, more than 60,620 poor households. Furthermore, 58,700 near-poor households in HCM City have risen above the poverty line.

Vocational Education and Training

One aspect of the Sustainable Poverty Reduction in Vietnam is vocational education and training (VET). This project is also known as “Renewal and Development of Vocational Training System by 2020.” It involves training rural workers and providing them information about employment trends and career advice. By 2020, this project predicts to increase the rate of skilled rural workers to 50 percent. Additionally, the plan aims to provide VET services to at least 90 percent of Vietnam’s working population and double rural incomes.

Vocational training has helped millions of people garner technical skills to utilize in the workforce. For instance, in 2017, more than 2 million people were enrolled in VET schools. To adapt to a rapidly growing economy, Vietnam’s workforce must transition from agriculture to service-oriented jobs. Similarly, VET services provide resources for rural workers to transition into more skillful and lucrative careers.

Employment in the agricultural sector has been dropping since 1997. About one million workers each year from 2011 to 2014 have transitioned to industry and service sectors.


Along with VET services, Sustainable Poverty Reduction in Vietnam also includes other forms of education. City officials are working to further improve the quality and accessibility of education within poor communities. Education is vital to reducing poverty as most jobs in Vietnam require certain degrees and qualifications. Those with degrees in higher education are more likely to get hired. In 2017, among workers with professional and technical qualifications, 44.7 percent had university degrees and above, 15.8 percent had college degrees, 24 percent had intermediate degrees, and 15.6 percent had elementary certificates.

Education funding is Vietnam’s largest expenditure. It makes up 20 percent of the state budget. In 2012, Vietnam ranked 17th out of 65 countries in academic performance, ahead of countries such as the U.S. and France. Throughout 2015 and 2016, school enrollment was very high. Student enrollment numbers for early elementary students were eight million, five million lower-secondary students, and two million upper-secondary students. This is according to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam. Furthermore, in those same years, the upper-secondary school graduation rate was at 95 percent.

Health Care and Accommodation

This project also incorporates health care services and accommodation. More than 87 percent of the population has health care coverage. Furthermore, estimates indicate an increase to 90 percent by 2020. Health care is one of Vietnam’s weaker programs. However, it is gradually improving due to the increase in health care funding.

The government of Vietnam is dedicated to further expanding universal health care and ensuring poor and near-poor households have access to high-quality treatment and medicine. Vietnam’s Health Insurance Fund covers all hospital fees for poor ethnic minorities living in impoverished communities.

Future of the Vietnamese Economy

The poverty reduction in Vietnam is also attracting other nations to open up their markets to Vietnam. Vietnam is earning its place in the world stage as it begins to globalize its economy and develop trade relations. These relations are with major global players such as the country of China. The globalization of Vietnam’s economy may further expand job opportunities and continue to improve the standard of living. In 2017, there was a 6.7 percent increase in overseas employment. As a result, job opportunities are increasing in international labor markets.

Vietnam’s innovative approach proves a success story. In 1990, Vietnam was one of the poorest countries, facing the remnants of war and famine. In the following years, the country saw rapid economic growth and government officials utilized their resources to further strengthen the economy and lift Vietnam from decades of hardship and poverty. As 2020 approaches, poverty reduction in Vietnam continues as the country takes great measures and strides toward becoming a developed nation.

– Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Flickr

Girls' education in Vietnam

“Girls’ education…is a primary issue in terms of breaking the cycle of poverty,” says Carolyn Miles, the president and CEO of the group Save the Children, and this is especially true of girls’ education in Vietnam. Save the Children works in more than 120 countries to improve the lives of children and young people.

In Lao Cai province, one of the poorest regions in Vietnam, a significant number of girls lack access to basic needs. These needs include clean drinking water, toilets and basic education. Moreover, many women in the province suffer heinous human rights violations and have the highest illiteracy rates in Vietnam. Data show at least half of children 10 years old and older in Vietnam are illiterate. In fact, the illiteracy rates for girls are higher when compared to boys.

In primary school, girls’ education in Vietnam sees a high enrollment rate. However, it also sees a low attendance rate. In addition, many girls ultimately drop out of school. In more rural areas of Vietnam, low attendance rates increase due to lack of transportation. Transportation faces challenges like distance and damaged roads from wars. Furthermore, costs prevent many girls from continuing education in Vietnam. These costs include tuition and fees, plus textbooks, which are not free at secondary and tertiary levels. Instead of sending girls to school, many families more them to work and help the family. As a result, the Vietnamese government has been prioritizing gender equality and strategizing to improve girls’ education in Vietnam.

Making Improvements

The government of Vietnam has shown commitment to prioritizing and promoting gender equality. Nevertheless, the improvement of girls’ education in Vietnam remains a work in progress. To improve this, the Vietnamese government partnered with UNESCO and other developmental organizations. In particular, the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training worked with UNESCO to establish the Gender Equality and Girls’ Education Initiative in Vietnam under the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education.

The Gender Equality and Girls’ Education Initiative in Vietnam gives girls and women a platform in Vietnam to fight for their human rights. For instance, the initiative provides education, raises awareness and teaches leadership training.

As listed on the UNESCO page, the objectives of the initiative are:

  1. “Reinforce gender equality in the Education Sector planning and management to empower girls and women.”

  2. “Enhance the capacity of education officials, teachers and experts to mainstream gender equality in curriculum and teaching practices.”

  3. “Raise awareness of students, parents, community members and the media to support the enabling environment for girls’ and women’s education and gender mainstreaming.”

UNESCO and other development organizations contribute to fostering a supportive environment for girls and women in Vietnam, especially within the educational setting. In Vietnam, UNESCO aims to create a fair environment where males and females both have a future and benefit from an equal-gender system of education.

Fifita Mesui
Photo: Flickr

Disabled Persons in VietnamIn Vietnam, 5.8 percent of the population is considered disabled. For a country home to 95 million individuals, this equates to more than 5.2 million people. Often, those with disabilities face circumstances that challenge their quality of life, such as limited access to education, fewer work opportunities and difficulty with transportation and self-care. This article discusses three ways quality of life is improving for disabled persons in Vietnam.

USAID Assistance

Assisting disabled persons in Vietnam has been a top priority of USAID since the 1990s. Since then, the nation has made great progress in establishing equal rights for disabled people, whether their disability is classified as visual, auditory, mobile, speech-based or cognitive. The U.S. government has allocated more than $100 million to the disabled population and 30,000 individuals have received direct hands-on assistance, including vocational training, independent living assistance and job training. Several laws and amendments have been passed, all designed to improve the quality of life among the disabled population, including:

  • 2001: Amendment to the Constitution of Vietnam
  • 2006: Vocational Training Law
  • 2010: National Law on Persons with Disabilities
  • 2012: National Action Plan to Support People with Disabilities

The 2017 USAID report breaks down the types of assistance offered and the impact they have had. Over the course of the year, the organization met a variety of policy milestones, including the development of city construction projects to improve transportation and create sustainable housing for families. More than 9,000 people with disabilities received direct assistance, increasing the number of people with access to services by 29 times. As a prevention tactic, 62,000 children between the ages of one and six were screened for signs of future development of disabilities. In the towns of Binh Phuoc and Tay Ninh, 17 rehabilitation units were set up and provided training for medical professionals.

While the 2018 report has not been released yet, USAID is carrying out a number of additional projects, with completion goals set in 2020. Among those is the Accessibility for Inclusion Project, a mission designed to not only raise awareness regarding basic rights of those with disabilities but to increase access to public buildings, ultimately expanding their social and physical capabilities. By the time the project is completed in 2020, research projects that at least 1,800 people will receive formal training to advocate for physical accessibility, and approximately 50,000 people with disabilities in Vietnam will have improved accessibility rights.

Global Disability Rights Now: The Impact

The Global Disability Rights Now! organization is focused on enforcing 10 specific disability rights in impoverished countries, ultimately putting an end to discrimination based on capability. Some of the principles include creating reasonable accommodations, changing the concept of defining disability and encouraging full participation in society. Global Disability Rights Now! carries out projects in Armenia, Guatemala, Kenya, Vietnam, Mexico and Peru.

One of the most successful projects to improve the lives of disabled persons in Vietnam was the mission to move towards disability inclusion in employment, a program that provided Disability Equality Training (DET) to the non-disabled community. It was designed to raise awareness towards potential barriers in employment that the disabled community in Vietnam face and to provide them with the resources they need to understand how to treat them as equals.

U.S. and Vietnam Partnership

On April 20, 2019, the USAID signed a memorandum of intent that was designed to drastically improve the quality of life for disabled persons in Vietnam. Specifically, the memorandum targeted seven Vietnamese provinces, including Quang Tri, Hue, Quang Nam, Binh Dinh, Dong Nai, Binh Phuoc and Tay Ninh. It is working to provide direct care to disabled individuals, along with expanding rehabilitation centers and developing community-level social services. USAID showed its support for those living with disabilities through celebrating Vietnam’s National Disability Day on April 18, 2019. More than 600 participants attended the “Run For Persons with Disabilities – No Distance, no Limitation” event, both with and without disabilities.

Although living conditions are still not ideal for individuals with disabilities in Vietnam, the programs and advocacy efforts being put in place by USAID are projected to drastically improve their lives. Efforts such as DET and the Accessibility for Inclusion Project are being implemented to equalize the two demographics, and in doing so, the nation expects to see an increase in opportunities and fair treatment among the disabled population in Vietnam by 2020.

– Anna Lagattuta
Photo: Flickr

Vietnams Science Tech and innovationVietnam sits at a crucial point as its economic development is currently facing difficulties with labor and capital forces that could hinder proper and sustainable development. Therefore, Vietnam must rely on a boost in productivity to successfully increase the country’s GDP growth. At this moment Vietnam’s science, technology and innovation system can provide numerous advantages in accomplishing its goal of building a sustainable economy. By taking proper advantage of its science and innovation, Vietnam could create numerous opportunities for its future.

Vietnam’s Successes

While Vietnam has a long history of respected and reputable scientific research, particularly in agriculture and biology, its innovation system is only beginning to emerge. Vietnam has numerous advantages it can utilize in order to improve its science, technology and innovation (STI) system.

Geographically, Vietnam is one of the most dynamic regions in the world. Over the past 2 decades, Vietnam has seen strong economic development and a massive reduction in poverty rates. In 1993, the percentage of Vietnamese people in poverty was 58, but by 2011 the percentage had dropped to 12. Vietnam’s education system and educational efforts have also been largely successful. The education systems success is demonstrated by a 98 percent literacy rate in Vietnam.

Furthermore, since the nation becomes industrialized, it has seen an increase in exports of an eclectic variety. Previously exports have been predominantly in agriculture, which it has maintained. However, in 2009, its exports expanded to include electronic equipment (5 percent), jewelry (5 percent) and machinery (4 percent).

Obstacles and Solutions

Vietnam’s current science, technology and innovation (STI) system contains several weaknesses. They include a lack of proper infrastructure, poor research and development in the business sector and weak STI government policies. Vietnam is also faced with several threats to its STI system such as a slowdown in economic growth in recent years, failure to prepare for international cooperation and failure to improve government and business institutions to deal with corruption.

To address these threats and weaknesses to innovation the World Bank has formulated a list of recommendations to serve as solutions to these problems. The list includes:

  • Improving the framework for innovations: All aspects of Vietnam’s framework, including infrastructure, the business sector, openness to trade and foreign direct investment and the tax system affect Vietnam’s innovative system.
  • Improving governance of innovation system: The government plays an integral role in regulating all aspects of STI systems, including setting priorities and ensuring adequate performance.
  • Strengthening the human resource base for innovation: Improving the educational system and allowing current workforce members opportunities to improve their skills as well as placing heavier emphasis on soft skills is essential for innovation.

Looking Forward

With the proper development of Vietnam’s science, technology and innovation System, the country has numerous potential opportunities to pursue. It could lead to a positive social and economic impact on the country’s population. Vietnam’s economic system has the potential to be upgraded and diversified with the development of a dynamic business sector. Lastly, the improvement of Vietnam’s STI system could be the driving force to sustaining Vietnam’s recent economic development.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in Vietnam
Vietnam is a country that thrives on agriculture. Even though many consider the country to be poor, agriculture is the base of the country’s economy. With a 12-month growing season, the country can get two or three harvests in a single year. One of the biggest problems in this sector is that much of Vietnam’s agricultural industry is driven by manual processes.

Agriculture in Vietnam

Vietnam is well known for cheap agricultural exports like coffee beans, rice, cotton, peanuts, sugarcane and tea. The country comes in second for rice exports, with 19.6 percent farmland and 69 percent irrigated land available for farming.

At least 30 percent of exports are crops grown year around. Other not so popular exports that are grown in parts of the country are cassava and sweet potatoes. Some places even have fruit trees that grow in certain seasons like bananas, jackfruit, oranges, mangoes and coconuts. For a country that has most of the economy in agriculture, and is poor otherwise, food is never in short supply.


Agriculture in Vietnam is the pillar of the economy. Though the country produces a large number of crops, the quality is low and so is the competitiveness. The more agricultural products produced, the lower the cost and Vietnam cannot seem to break the vicious cycle.

The markets have plenty of room for all the excess product, but farmers are not growing for the new demands the market requires. Vietnam is used to a more traditional market, which makes it even harder to compete with countries like Cambodia, Pakistan and Myanmar. This way of farming is becoming unsustainable and some growers are abandoning their farms for jobs in the city. Farmers are in poverty because of this cycle, and many do not have outside skills after a career in farming. A new policy called the “motivation” is set to push farmers and policy officials to take advantage of global integration and dig further into the demands of the market. This could help stop the vicious cycle that is occurring and improve agricultural practices.

What Is Being Done

The primary areas where farming is done are near the Red River Delta and Mekong River Delta. Vietnam’s agricultural industry involves intensive labor, so water buffalo is used on many farms today. Farmers use dikes which are like dams to control the rivers. This lets the farmers control more or less water in certain areas so the crops can get the right amount and grow properly. Some farmers gather wild plants by the rivers and in forests to cultivate seeds, hoping to increase crop revenue from the rare wild plants and it also brings diversity to the agriculture. Farmers created a new way to prevent pests from affecting the rice plants by using an electric device to find them instead of pesticides. If farmers planted the rice immediately after infestation, the plants grew stronger and built resistance to the pests, known as brown planthoppers. Many policies are being rolled out to increase diversity in the products, finding new markets and retaining more natural ways to produce and protect crops.

An exciting new irrigation system has been proposed for Vietnam agriculture and will open doors to new markets. The Asian Development Bank approved $100 million to help finance right modernized irrigation systems in five drought-affected areas. The upgraded irrigation system will bring water on demand with pressurized pipe systems. This will help improve agricultural productivity and give access to grow high-end crops such as dragonfruit, grapes and mango. It will improve the quality of Vietnam’s coffee beans and the variety of peppers the country grows. This system will also improve the quality of groundwater and minimize management services. Providing water on demand will ensure crops get exactly how much water they need and even provide water during unfavorable climate change. The new system could increase diversity in the market, gross profit and fight poverty within the country.

– Kayla Cammarota
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous PopulationThere are 370 million indigenous people in the world today. The majority live in China, where 36 percent of the population is indigenous. This is followed by South Asia at 32 percent, Southeast Asia at 10 percent and Latin America at 8 percent. The United States is 1.5 percent indigenous. Indigenous populations account for about 5 percent of the world’s population but more than 15 percent of the world’s poor. What is the connection between indigenous people and poverty, and how can it be broken?

Who Is Indigenous?

There is such a wide variety of indigenous cultures that it makes creating a common definition challenging. The United Nations refers to them as the descendants of the inhabitants of a country or geographic regions prior to the immigration of a second ethnic group. The second ethnic group then became dominant through conquest and settlement, marginalizing the original inhabitants. Examples include Native Americans, the Saami of Northern Europe, the Maori of New Zealand and the Maasai of Eastern Africa.

Many people prefer to be called by the name of their individual group or tribe, such as “Navaho” or “Inuit.” However, the blanket term, “indigenous,” is gaining popularity since it links together different peoples and provides a legitimate status for special rights in many countries.

What Problems Do They Face?

It is difficult to find data for countries in Asia because most governments deny the existence of indigenous populations. For example, China has officially stated that there are no indigenous people within their borders despite having the highest concentration in the world. In areas like the Philippines and Vietnam, there are indigenous populations as well as “ethnic minorities,” who are indigenous but do not come from the country in which they are currently living. Often these “ethnic minorities” were forced to leave their native lands.

The best data came from Latin America in 2010 where indigenous people made up 8 percent of the population, but 14 percent of the poor and 17 percent of the extreme poor. Part of the reason for the disparity is the fact that indigenous populations are more likely to live in rural or remote areas. In cities, there is better access to electricity, clean water and education. This is also evident if they are living in an urban slum where indigenous people can outnumber nonindigenous two-to-one.

There is also a significant pay gap for indigenous populations. In Mexico, native people earn 12 to 14 percent less than non-native people. In Bolivia, the gap is 9 to 13 percent and in Peru and Guatemala, it is about 6 percent. In Australia, aboriginals have 30 percent less disposable income than their non-aboriginal counterparts, and in Canada, the wage gap can be as high as 25 percent. This is a large part of the connection between indigenous people and poverty.

How Can This Be Solved?

Approximately half the poverty gap can be accounted for by differences in employment type, education level, living in a rural area and family size. The other half is the “unexplained” gap, which is a result of direct discrimination or racism. This creates a unique challenge for bringing indigenous people out of poverty. Reducing the gap in education rates is widely regarded as the first step and has been steadily improving in the past few years.

In Ecuador, Mexico and Nicaragua, indigenous children attend primary school at the same rate as non-indigenous children. However, in many communities, primary education is still strongly associated with assimilation to the majority culture. The best way to fight this belief is to offer bilingual language and a curriculum sensitive to cultural differences, which is slowly gaining popularity in many countries.

Indigenous peoples often have their own ideas of what improvement should look like; therefore it is important to increase their power to advocate for their own needs. The United Nations Declaration of Indigenous People’s Rights in 2007 brought together groups from all over the world. This put them in a better place to negotiate for further rights and land privileges on their terms.  Worldwide, native peoples are asserting their political power to bring long-needed changes to their communities. If governments are willing to listen, indigenous people will have a better chance of breaking the connection between indigenous people and poverty.

Jackie Mead

Photo: Flickr

PA Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Vietnam
Although it is true that the life expectancy rates tend to be relatively high in Vietnam, the most common causes of death, although preventable or treatable, have often been somewhat ignored by the country’s health officials and the general public. To get a better understanding of how these health oversights can and are being corrected, the list below states the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Vietnam as well as the efforts being made to enhance rates.

Top 10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Vietnam

  1. Adult Life Expectancy Rates. Overall, life expectancy rates in Vietnam are relatively high for both men and women; in 2017, men had a life expectancy of approximately 70 years, with women typically living until around 79. These numbers are a step up from where life expectancy rates in Vietnam were in 1990. Back then, men were only expected to live until 65 and women until 72. While the current life expectancy rates in Vietnam are impressive, it is still possible to improve them even further by improving the current healthcare system, which as of today, isn’t yet fully equipped to handle the country’s most common causes of death: stroke, heart disease, lung cancer.
  2. Child Mortality. Child mortality rates for children under five-years-old have reached an encouraging low, dropping from 47.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 13 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017. Children under the age of one were also more likely to survive in 2017, with 10 deaths per 1,000 live births being the modern mortality rate; another exponential shift from the 35 deaths per 1,000 births observed in 1990.
  3. Emerging Economy. The drop in mortality rates and the increase of life expectancy rate in Vietnam may be due in part to the fact that the country is transitioning from an impoverished nation to a lower middle-income nation. The World Bank describes Vietnam as “one of the most dynamic emerging countries in East Asia”, and for good reason. In 2017, Vietnam reached a record-high GDP of $223.86 billion; an incredible jump from its record-low GDP of $6.29 billion in 1989.
  4. Emerging Middle-Class. Vietnam’s middle-class is projected to expand along with the newly emerging market economy. Currently, the middle-class population only makes up 13 percent of the population as most Vietnamese citizens are under 35 years old. Still, as Vietnam ages, the middle-class is expected to grow and eventually encompass 26 percent of the population by 2026.
  5. Childhood Education. In 2011, 66 percent of children in Vietnam had access to full-day preschool education. In 2016, the percentage grew to 84 percent. Programs like Children of Vietnam are hoping to increase that percentage further by providing education to poor and handicapped children. By providing these marginalized children transportation to schools as well as building more schools, Children for Vietnam hopes to break the cycle of poverty by creating opportunities for lower-class children to advance in society.
  6. Hospital Inadequacies. Despite the aforementioned victories in improving life expectancy rates in Vietnam, there is still much work to be done. The Ministry of Health (MOH) estimated that around 40,000 Vietnamese citizens travel abroad annually for health care, spending around $2 billion in the process. This is because most Vietnamese hospitals are outdated, overcrowded and largely understaffed with qualified medical professionals. Public hospitals in Vietnam rely on state budgets to upgrade their services. Although the budget has increased over the years, it is still insufficient.
  7. Automotive Accidents. Automotive accidents remain in the top 10 most common causes of death in Vietnam despite recent legislation that addresses drunk driving and driving without helmets – since many people drive motorcycles to navigate narrow streets. Road accident fatalities have decreased from 12,000 deaths per year prior to 2012 to below 10,000 deaths per year, but the legislation still has a way to go when it comes to road safety. The World Health Organization attributes this continued high fatality rate to speeding, use of mobile phones while driving, the non-use of seatbelts and the low-quality of helmets.
  8. Tobacco. A major cause of stroke and heart disease in Vietnam is the mass consumption of tobacco products. Over 15.6 million Vietnamese adults (over 15 years old) smoke, with 85 percent smoking daily. In an effort to combat this trend, the government has implemented a special consumption tax on tobacco products that is raised by five percent annually. Despite the good intentions behind the tax, it has somewhat backfired. Because of increasing government taxes on goods, smuggling has become a huge problem in the country. The Ho Chi Minh City-based Vietnam Tobacco Association stated that approximately 1 billion packs of smuggled cigarettes are consumed in the country annually. Many tobacco farmers and workers are suffering as a consequence, with 2018 seeing the loss of 1 million jobs in the field.
  9. Project Vietnam Foundation. The Project Vietnam Foundation (PVNF) is a U.S.-based nonprofit that operates in Vietnamese-American communities in the U.S. and on-site in Vietnam. In Vietnam, their primary focus is to provide medical training programs to impoverished rural areas. PVNF has provided reconstructive surgeries for over 2,050 children in need of cleft lip and palate operations, and PVNF’s volunteer mission program has treated over 93,000 patients who may not have otherwise been able to receive treatment.
  10. The Ho Chi Minh Environmental Sanitation Project. The Thi Nghe used to pose a major sanitation and environmental health threat to the city of Ho Chi Minh. With no effective sewage system, the canal was polluted with human waste and garbage, which would often overflow during the raining seasons into the houses and businesses built on top of the canal. In 2002, what was called the Ho Chi Minh Environmental Sanitation Project was implemented with the goal of cleaning the canal and establishing an underground sewage system. The Project finished in 2011, and with its completion came a revitalization of health. Because of the project, 96,000 households benefit from reduced flooding risks, and 1.2 million people (mainly lower-class) now have a centralized wastewater collection. Fish are returning to the canal, which is proof that the water quality is slowly but surely improving. The city is now requesting that phase two of the project begin, with a loan of $450 million from the World Bank and a goal to finish around 2030.

As these top 10 facts about life expectancy in Vietnam show, although progress is being made for healthcare and safety in the country, there is still much work to be done, especially in impoverished rural areas of the country. Educational programs like the Project Vietnam Foundation are truly key in creating sustainable healthcare systems in the nation, so spreading the word about these nonprofits and volunteer opportunities are essential in aiding the further progression of life expectancy of all Vietnamese citizens.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Vietnam
The state of human rights in Vietnam is dire and has hit an all-time low level in 2017. Activism, religious diversity, political variance and even integrity within the judicial and police systems are almost non-existent. Vietnam has seen backlash for its controversial and rigid ways from the U.S. and other Western countries, but the country continues to ignore it and even fights opposition to their government in favor of preserving the authority of the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party.

Vietnamese Political Situation

The Vietnamese Communist Party is the sole state of leadership in Vietnam and has been in this position since 1980. The 1992 constitution, however, delegated more authority to the president and to the cabinet. The party, nevertheless, maintained responsibility for overall policy decisions. Challenges to the Vietnamese Communist Party are not tolerated, and often end in incarceration.

In fact, Vietnam actually prohibits the establishment or operation of independent political parties, labor unions and human rights organizations. Approval from Vietnamese authorities is needed for public gatherings. These authorities can refuse permission for meetings, marches, or public assemblies they believe to be politically unacceptable.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of State did a report on human rights in Vietnam and deemed the country to be “neither free nor fair” and claimed a large contributing factor for this state was the corruption of the judicial and police systems. The report stated that the Vietnamese judicial system was inefficient and experienced political influence and endemic corruption. Moreover, there were multiple cases of police brutality in both arrests and later detention, denial to a fair trial, ambiguity in arrests, and inhumane prison conditions. A government official from Vietnam fired back at the report stating that Vietnam supports human rights but opposes initiatives by outside nations interfering in internal affairs.

Reports on the Current Situation

The Vietnamese government has proven to be untrustworthy in their claims about human rights in Vietnam as well. The Vietnamese government has continuously claimed, since 2010, that there are no political prisoners in Vietnam. Yet as of April 2018, there have already been approximately 97 prisoners of conscience in the country.

In 2012, the U.N. ran their own human rights report on Vietnam and the results were increasingly positive, relative to the U.S. report in 2010. Though, the report still urged the government to implement major human rights treaties, like the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment which is an international human rights treaty meant to prevent all acts of cruel and inhuman treatment across the world.

Yet, despite this relatively positive report, human rights in Vietnam took a decline in 2017. The Human Rights Watch reported at least 36 cases of violence against activist from January to April 2017. Moreover, the Human Rights Watch found that the judicial system was still very much under the control of the government and that it has failed to meet international standards.

In Vietnam, people who suffer from a drug dependency, including children, are sent to governmental detention centers where they are forced to do menial work or “labor therapy.” It was reported by state media that during the first six months of 2017, about 3,168 people were sent to centers in Ho Chi Minh City. It was also found that those that are most at risk of violent treatment in these centers are children, women and ethnic minorities which goes directly against the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment treaty the U.N. urged Vietnam to implement back in 2012.

There are organizations who are actively attempting to intervene in the high number of arrests being made by law officials of The Vietnamese Communist Party, and who are also fighting for the improvement of Human Rights conditions in Vietnam.

Organizations Involved in improving Human Rights in Vietnam

Organizations like the Human Rights Watch and the International Federation For Human Rights (FIDH) have urgently been asking for donations and letters to intercede the Human Rights violations being made in Vietnam. Moreover, there has been an increase in the number of activists for Human Rights, within Vietnam, in the last decade.

However, Vietnamese activists have to remain relatively quiet in their effort to bring these violations to the attention of the rest of the world due to the high probability of being arrested. Since 2014, there have been a little over 160 human rights activists that have been jailed in Vietnam, and this number continues to rise.

Thus, it remains to be seen if the conditions of Human Rights in Vietnam will improve in the coming years, but with the high number of arrests already in 2018, the outlook does not look so bad. The government has to change it’s attitude towards this issue if the country plans to grow in this aspect.

– Isabella Agostini
Photo: Flickr


In terms of poverty reduction, Vietnam has seen leaps and bounds in the last two decades. Ever since it opened up its markets to international businesses in the mid-1980s, its GDP has grown rapidly from about 2 percent to an average of 6 percent over the last twenty years. 
Significant economic and political reforms in 1986 by then-leader-Đổi Mới made this possible. As Hanoi continues to improve the country’s living standards, here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Vietnam of note.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Vietnam

  1. The status of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities have drastically improved; since 2008, poverty rates declined by 13 percent. Ethnic minorities represent a large majority of Vietnam’s poor, and an increase in living standards means that much more in the national context.
  2. Only 2.6 percent of the population lived under the World Bank’s poverty line of $1.90 a day in 2014.
  3. The Children’s Education Foundation works to supply education to Vietnamese girls and young women living in poverty. Their programs cover many of Vietnam’s cities and provinces; one of their ten-year programs in Da Nang City helped girls graduate high school.
  4. Habitat for Humanity helped 13,300 Vietnamese families find sustainable, sanitary housing and clean water in 2014. Their programs continue to provide education and training services in fields such as finance and hygiene to many of Vietnam’s poor.
  5. In 2015, Vietnamese high schoolers ranked 12th in the global Pisa tests in the categories of math and science. It outpaced the United States in every field; this is due to high government investment in education and a widespread cultural respect of learning.
  6. Vietnam’s unemployment rate sits at 2.01 percent in 2018; the government supplies most of the jobs in the country, in addition to a growing private sector. However, wages still remain behind most developed countries.
  7. Life expectancy for Vietnamese women reached an all-time high of 80.88 in 2017, only slightly behind the United States (81.1 in 2016). However, male life expectancy lags behind at 71.53.
  8. Vietnam’s national healthcare system frequently has to deal with tobacco-related diseases; tobacco remains the top risk factor contributing to death and disability, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
  9. Vietnam experiences frequent natural disasters that, more often than not, are exacerbated by human factors such as poor infrastructure and vulnerable populations that often consist of ethnic minorities. In August 2017, floods in northwestern Vietnam took 27 lives and caused $43 million of damages to property and infrastructure.
  10. Discontentment with the government has spiked in recent years despite economic growth. In fact, Vietnam’s deals with China to net funding for 99-year leased infrastructure projects have sparked concern among Vietnamese citizens about Chinese overreach. China’s approval rating polls at a measly 10 percent in Vietnam.

Historic Improvement

These top 10 facts about poverty in Vietnam showcase a historic improvement in the quality of life for its poor. Despite lagging public confidence in the government, Vietnam can expect a bright future for its economy if it maintains its rapid growth and becomes more responsive to the needs of its citizens.

Alex Qi
Photo: Flickr