Empowering Women in Vietnam
Like in many emerging economies around the world, women in Vietnam form the majority of the working poor, often earning less than men and having fewer high-income opportunities. In Vietnam, many disparities between men and women result from gender-based discrimination and the social acceptance of inequity. These can manifest in educational discrimination and pay discrimination.

Without equal resources and support, young girls lack the necessary skills and acceptance for their futures to move beyond vulnerable positions or “invisible” jobs such as homeworking and street vending. However, many organizations are working to promote equity for women in Vietnam, whether through government lobbying or independent support. Here are three NGOs empowering women in Vietnam.

The Asia Foundation

Working throughout the continent, The Asia Foundation has worked in Vietnam specifically for more than 25 years, partnering with local NGOs and governments to improve women’s livelihoods. This organization seeks to strengthen and improve women’s and girls’ economic opportunities and autonomy. It has advocated for more inclusive political atmospheres and worked to expand women’s rights. To expand women’s economic opportunities, it partnered with the Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council to increase women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises.

With funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Asia Foundation facilitated a mobile banking platform aimed toward low-income populations in Vietnam. In 2017, The Asia Foundation provided 333 girls with secondary schooling scholarships, school supplies, books, uniforms and bicycles. Through its expansive and integrated approach to empowering women in Vietnam, The Asia Foundation provides the tools necessary to help create an equitable future for women and girls.

Women’s Empowerment and Voice (WEAV)

This organization is unique among the three as it consists of Vietnamese Americans, including general members and leadership. Members’ work focuses on the improvement and inclusion of impoverished girls and women in a complete education. By providing the opportunities necessary to complete a college education, WEAV enables the potential for higher-paying careers and a wider variety of employment options.

In Vietnam, “[o]nly boys can expect to be educated at the primary and secondary levels,” according to the organization.” As a result, this organization funds scholarships for girls needing financial support to stay in school. Women’s Empowerment and Voice supports more than 100 women attending four different colleges in the Mekong Delta. Since WEAV launched in 2011, it had its first college graduate in 2015.

Additionally, it continues to increase the number of scholarships with each passing year. Its dedication to uplifting women in poverty or in financial need supports women and their families, lifting overwhelming economic burdens. WEAV provides futures by breaking down barriers of discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantages to empower women in Vietnam, allowing bright minds to shine.

CARE

In covering a wide variety of circumstances, CARE’s programs in Vietnam work to enhance women’s economic growth and prevent gender-based violence, including workplace sexual assault. Since its work in Vietnam began in 1989, eliminating gender-based discrimination and mapping strategies to eliminate poverty have helped underprivileged communities. A recent program that CARE formed called “Ignite” seeks to boost women-led entrepreneurship in Vietnam, placing these businesses at the forefront of their fields.

Despite the growth in women-owned businesses, numbers remain low and often unseen. Ignite hopes to improve visibility and support entrepreneurs in maintaining businesses. The program seeks to accelerate the growth of 50,000 enterprises and positively impact at least 340,000 entrepreneurs, of which at least 70% would be women. In order to stand against social norms disassociating women from business, CARE provides access to resources and support organizations ready to assist women, allowing for more equitable opportunities both within and outside of the workplace.

Looking Forward

Despite Vietnam’s economic growth and development over recent decades, social norms and financial inequality leave women with fewer opportunities and lower incomes than men. However, these three NGOs empowering women in Vietnam lay the groundwork for effective positive change.

With their support, women can hold more political autonomy and economic power, while other organizations and programs focus on alleviating financial burdens on families to allow girls a comprehensive education. As the Australian government partnered with The Asia Foundation, the United States and other economic powers have the opportunity to reflect such a partnership and increase funding toward poverty elimination and gender equity worldwide.

– Mikey Redding
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Aid in Vietnam
The relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam was at one time a negative one. However, over several decades, both countries have formed a positive and beneficial relationship. In 1995, both countries established a bilateral relationship and have since developed a friendship. The U.S. hopes for Vietnam to one day be strong enough to be independent of aid from outside sources.

Until that day comes, U.S. aid in Vietnam will continue to help the Vietnamese people. In just the past 20 years alone, the U.S. has provided $706 million worth of aid to improve health in Vietnam. In that same amount of time, the U.S. provided an overall total of $1.8 billion in aid to Vietnam.

US Health Aid in Vietnam

Much of the U.S. aid in Vietnam aims to improve the health of the Vietnamese people. In particular, the U.S. hopes to control the spread of infectious diseases in Vietnam such as HIV. There are various programs USAID has operating within Vietnam to achieve this goal. One such program is Healthy Markets. The purpose of this project is to create a market in Vietnam with easy access to viable medical goods and services used to combat HIV. The program called Local Health System Sustainability (LHSS) provides services directly to the government of Vietnam. This project aims to increase the financing of Vietnam’s health sector. These are just two of the 16 health projects operating in Vietnam thanks to USAID.

US Aid to People With Disabilities

The U.S. aid in Vietnam also targets Vietnamese people with disabilities. Over the years, USAID has changed the way it helps Vietnamese people with disabilities. Originally, the U.S. helped this group of people directly by providing prosthetics. Over time, the U.S. has come to appreciate the fact that people with disabilities in Vietnam also need access to important services and the need for their inclusion in Vietnamese society.

Similar to the medical projects, there are also projects in Vietnam working to help Vietnamese people with disabilities. One of these projects is Advancing Medical Care and Rehabilitation and Education. This project is working toward improving care for people with brain impairments. Projections have determined that this project will last until 2023 on a budget of $10.3 million. The project called the Disability Rights Enforcement, Coordination and Therapies is working to make sure disability rights undergo enforcement within Vietnam. This project also works to improve therapy and other essential services for people with disabilities. It will last until 2023 and has a budget of $10.7 million.

Why it Matters

While Vietnam’s poverty rate has been 5.8% as of 2016, U.S. aid in Vietnam still goes a long way. People living in poverty often do not get to participate in the better aspects of society. This makes U.S. aid in Vietnam so important because it allows all people to have a better life including those in poverty. For example, the U.S. has been able to reach 30,000 people with disabilities in Vietnam. It is numbers like this that show the positive impact aid can have on other countries.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in VietnamThere has been a great deal of success in fighting HIV/AIDS in Vietnam in recent years. UNAIDS figures show that in 2020, new HIV infections numbered 6,100 in the Southeast Asia nation of 95 million people. This marks about a 71% reduction from the peak in 2003 and the lowest number of new infections since 1992. AIDS-related deaths fell from a peak of 9,600 deaths in 2006 to 3,800 deaths in 2020 — about a 60% reduction.

The Role of Foreign Aid

Over the years, foreign aid has advanced efforts to control HIV/AIDS in Vietnam. The United States has long been the largest donor, bilaterally through its President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and multilaterally through its contributions to the United Nations.

The U.S. began PEPFAR in 2003 when the global HIV/AIDS epidemic was near its peak severity. PEPFAR initially focused on 15 countries in which the HIV/AIDS epidemic was most out of control, including Vietnam. Vietnam received $288.7 million in assistance from the program between 2004 and 2008. This aggressive funding went a long way in helping Vietnam educate high-risk populations about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment; providing antiretroviral treatment (ART) for infected persons and addiction treatment for people who inject drugs (the highest risk population).

UNAIDS 90-90-90 Goals and Beyond

In October 2014, Vietnam became the first nation in Asia to adopt the UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 initiative, which set the following aggressive goals to be reached by 2020:

  • “90% of all people living with HIV will” have a diagnosis.

  • “90% of all people diagnosed with HIV” will obtain antiretroviral treatment.

  • “90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.”

A 2020 UNAIDS report shows that  Vietnam had incomplete data for the first two goals and a 95% score for the third. The data also indicates that 66% of all people in Vietnam living with HIV were virally suppressed. UNAIDS has set new goals to reach 95% in all three areas by 2025.

The Positive Impact of Poverty Reduction

A few years before Vietnam discovered its first HIV infections in 1990, its government implemented economic reforms known as Doi Moi. These changes made the Vietnamese economy more market-oriented, which in turn, attracted foreign investments and allowed the nation to tap into globalization. The economic results were so dramatic that the IMF says Vietnam’s per capita growth of 5.6% between 1990 and 2017 was “second only to China.” More than 40 million people rose out of poverty from 1993 to 2014. According to the World Bank, Vietnam’s poverty rate now stands at less than 6% based on the purchasing power parity of $3.2 a day.

This vast reduction in poverty has no doubt helped in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Vietnam. The American Psychological Association says that risky health behaviors, such as substance abuse and transactional sex work, are more likely in areas with a low socioeconomic status (SES). It also notes that HIV-infected people with low SES are less likely to receive treatment early on, and that, once treatment begins, the demands and costs of their medical care often hurt their SES even further.

The Impact of a Change in Economic Status

Efforts to control HIV/AIDS in Vietnam have been affected by the change in 2009 of Vietnam’s economic status from a low-income country to a lower-middle-income country. Foreign donors have since demanded that Vietnam cover an increasingly high share of the costs to run its HIV/AIDS programs, which Vietnam has agreed to. Today, the nation covers approximately 40% of the total costs of HIV/AIDS treatment.

Going forward, it is imperative that Vietnam and foreign donors work closely together to help ensure a smooth transition for critical HIV/AIDS programs as Vietnam takes on more autonomy.

– Jeramiah Jordan
Photo: Flickr

How Improper Waste Management in Vietnam Impacts PovertyOne of the top contributors of plastic pollution in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is among the several nations struggling to properly manage and dispose of waste. This problem has unfortunately affected the lives of many of Vietnam’s impoverished who work as garbage collectors. Researchers are now conducting studies to understand the potential hazards and consequences associated with improper waste management, providing insight into how improper waste management in Vietnam impacts poverty.

The Waste Problem in Vietnam

Vietnam currently generates about 13 million tons of waste every year. In the past, the country has broken records by producing 38,000 tons of waste “in a single day.” Vietnam’s administration now finds that waste production increases by 10-16% annually and that the nation mismanages about 85% of its garbage. This is problematic because as waste builds up over time, it negatively affects environmental conditions and contributes to pollution. Today, garbage is still piling up in Vietnam’s poorly constructed landfills and the technology incorporated to treat waste in these areas fails to meet basic sanitary requirements.

Vietnam’s Waste Collectors

Waste collecting is an occupation generally held by Vietnam’s lower class, a job that many see as undesirable. In Vietnam, many people have a very negative outlook on the idea of managing garbage for a living because of how unrewarding the endeavor is and how little it pays. As a result, those who find themselves working as waste collectors face significant prejudice and social stigmatization from their communities. While waste collectors often endure discrimination in their communities, they also have to live with harmful side effects that stem from living and working in poor and unsanitary conditions.

Health Effects

In order to determine the effects of waste management in Vietnam, researchers conducted a study by interviewing waste collectors from several cities and provinces, such as Hanoi, Thai Binh, Nam Dinh and more.  Participants were of various ages, with some as young as 30 and others as old as 65. The results showed that respondents suffered from musculoskeletal disorders and commonly felt side effects such as aches and fatigue. Some participants lived with gastrointestinal illnesses and had diseases such as dermatitis. Other symptoms include tension, insomnia and depression.

The effect of waste management on health is alarming because the most disproportionately affected people, the waste collectors, usually come from low-income backgrounds. This is significant because many waste collectors cannot afford healthcare and go about their days aware of this fact, exposing themselves to hazardous materials for the sake of a meager income. Waste collectors endure such work as their most significant priority remains financially supporting their families, no matter the risks. These circumstances illustrate how improper waste management in Vietnam impacts poverty.

The Role of Other Countries

As it turns out, nations such as the United States are partially to blame for the waste management crisis in Vietnam. This is because the U.S. and other well-developed countries engage in trade by exporting waste to less-developed nations. Notable recipients of these types of exports include nations in Southeast Asia, like Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam.

Though Vietnam receives a large amount of waste from the U.S., it did not import as much plastic before 2018. In previous years, states would send most of their waste to China and Hong Kong, which were the two largest recipients of these exports at the time. In December 2017, however, China implemented a plastic ban, meaning that the U.S. could not send as much waste as it previously did. As a result, the United States started reallocating the garbage that would have gone to China by sending it across multiple smaller countries.

Before China’s ban, Vietnam received nearly 49,000 tons of waste from the U.S. between January and June 2017. Between January and June 2018, Vietnam imported more than 71,000 tons of garbage, a near 50% increase from the previous year.

What Can be Done?

As much of the waste that Vietnam generates is plastic, many believe the country’s best option would be to find ways to reuse and recycle disposed materials. One example of this would be to turn plastic into products such as aerosols, which can have several applications in different industries. Vietnam can also learn from countries such as the United States by setting up material recovery facilities where people drop off recyclable items. Workers can then palletize these materials and deliver them to other recycling centers that turn plastic into smaller pellets, which there is a large market for.

Alternatives for Vietnam are to potentially consider new materials that could replace plastic. Many enterprises now produce biodegradable plastic and could help Vietnam by providing an eco-friendly solution. That way, the country could see a reduction in waste generation over the next few years. Similarly, Vietnam could also offer incentives for businesses to produce or switch to using biodegradable materials.

Although many of these solutions can positively impact Vietnam’s people, starting them up can be expensive. For this reason, Vietnam’s government is opening the country up to different industries with the hope of establishing business relations with other nations. If Vietnam successfully implements new policies and alternative solutions, the government can dramatically improve the lives of many of its people.

– Eshaan Gandhi
Photo: Unsplash

Green Financing in Vietnam with a Big Help From France
The French Development Agency (AFD) announced a $100 million concessional credit line to the Bank of Investment and Development in Vietnam (BDIV) and technical assistance to help establish green financing in Vietnam. As Vietnam continues its rapid development while disproportionately dealing with the adverse effects of environmental challenges, it is searching to develop green financing to underpin a sustainable, efficient renewable energy system. The BDIV plays a crucial role in that transition and the assistance from the AFD is a significant first step in the transition to green financing in Vietnam.

Development in Vietnam

In 1986, a set of economic reforms would fundamentally shift the role of markets in Vietnam. By encouraging private ownership, overturning its policy on forced collective farming and recognizing private land rights, the Doi Moi reforms provided a central role for markets as the primary resource allocation mechanism.

The results have been astounding for economic development and poverty reduction in Vietnam. In the last three decades, the poverty rate reduced from 70% to 6%, and the GDP per capita increased by 2.7 times. In total, more than 45 million people were able to leave poverty. Today, Vietnam is the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia.

A component of this development was a shift away from an agriculture-based economy to a more industrial economy. In 1988, agriculture constituted 46% of the GDP. Fast forward to 2014, and agriculture as a share of the GDP had contracted to only 17%, while the service sector and industrial sector accounted for 44% and 39%, respectively.

Economic Consequences

Nevertheless, similar to other nations with experienced industrialization and remarkable growth and in a truncated period, Vietnam struggles to manage the environmental consequences. It logically flows as the more dynamic an economy becomes, the more energy it requires to power it. Likewise, the quicker the development, the more demand for energy will outpace the supply. Vietnam is no exception; on average, its energy demands increase by 10% every year.

Naturally, when demand rapidly outpaces supply, countries search for cheap, quick options to increase supply. Therefore, fossil fuels, a historically abundant and cheap energy source, have primarily fueled Vietnamese development. As of 2019, 84.7% of Vietnam’s energy came from fossil fuels, primarily in the form of coal (50.25%) but also in oil (25.92%) and gas (8.61%).

This Faustian pact with the cheaper, more abundant resources – along with other trappings of middle-income status – comes with environmental consequences. In 1989, Vietnam contributed 0.26 tons of carbon emissions per capita to the globe. By 2017, this number jumped to 1.93 tons. As a result of the severe air pollution, 50,000 people a year die. Although significant inroads have occurred, access to clean water in Vietnam remains a problem as 9,000 people die a year from polluted water.

Environmental Consequences

In addition to medical costs, environmental deterioration has a profound economic cost. Air pollution causes a financial cost of around 5% of GDP per year.

As with most unintended consequences, the most impoverished bear the brunt of it. The most poverty-stricken members of society are the most exposed, susceptible and resource-poor to adapt to the deteriorating environment. However, as the U.N. noted that it also creates a “…vicious cycle, whereby initial inequality makes disadvantaged groups suffer disproportionate loss of their income and assets, resulting in greater subsequent inequality” that threatens the economic development Vietnam has achieved over the last three decades.

On the flip side then, the poor benefit the most from green financing. For example, some researchers investigated this connection by studying 25 Chinese provinces over 13 years and found a high correlation between the two variables. The group argues that through a strong absorption capacity, long industrial chains and a high degree of relevance, green financing has a “pulling effect on economic development and can effectively alleviate poverty.”

Green Financing

Vietnam has recognized this dynamic and has set out to reverse the trend. The government has made significant inroads in providing cleaner development through creating cleaner transportation infrastructure, safer water and shifting to renewables. However, Vietnam achieved these inroads through government financing. According to the Asian Development Bank Institute, to supply energy demand with renewable energy, 50% of total investment in renewable energy development must come from private green financing. Yet, due to a lack of capacity and infrastructure, Vietnam banks cannot get near the 50% number.

Nevertheless, the AFD concessional loan is a significant first step in establishing green financing in Vietnam. As noted, the AFD provided a $100 million concessional loan to BDIV. BDIV is one of the leading financial institutions in Vietnam. It has over 1,100 banks worldwide and assets totaling VND1.56 quadrillion to promote green financing. The credit line will also mark the first green finance fund AFD has set up in Vietnam. Notably, AFD and BDIV earmarked $366,000 of the loan for technical assistance to support the transition.

AFD is valuable and experienced. It has more than 90 projects worldwide worth over 2.3 billion Euros. In addition, it has experience supporting green development in various sectors such as transport, infrastructure, agriculture and energy.

Taking Action

The CEO of BDIV, Le Ngoc Lam, hinted at three critical takeaways for Vietnam and BDIV in particular. First, it will assist BDIV in improving its operational efficiency in financing Vietnam’s green development. Second, it will establish a partnership between BDIV and AFD for future green development loans or projects. Finally, it signals to international partners Vietnam’s willingness to participate in green development projects or financial partnerships.

Put another way, the loan provides significant financing, technical assistance and establishes a partnership that can lead to other green financing opportunities. Therefore, it is essential to establish green financing in Vietnam and, accordingly, sustaining its development and further alleviating poverty.

– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

quality of life in VietnamThe South Asian country of Vietnam has experienced vast improvements in its quality of life over the years. Proof of these improvements is abundant. In 2016, the Happy Planet Index Report found that Vietnam was the happiest country in Asia. Life expectancy in Vietnam also reflects a positive trend in the quality of life for the country. Life expectancy is at 75.5 years, which is especially impressive when considering the U.S. life expectancy of 77.3 yearsThese are only a few examples of the positive improvements in quality of life in Vietnam. Thanks to the efforts of the Vietnamese government and other supporters abroad, Vietnam has been able to make many other improvements.

Better Healthcare

One indicator of improving the quality of life in Vietnam is healthcare. The maternal mortality rate in Vietnam has reduced four-fold over recent years. The number of children under 5 years old dying has also reduced by half. Progress like this has become possible due to better access to reliable healthcare for Vietnamese people. However, work still needs to occur in many areas.

For example, 100 children still die from preventable diseases every day in Vietnam. Thankfully, UNICEF is providing help to further improve healthcare and, as a result, make the quality of life in Vietnam better. UNICEF provides its services to healthcare personnel throughout Vietnam so that they can provide better care to the Vietnamese people. 

Better Education

A better education system is yet another way of improving the quality of life in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government has seen to this by using numerous methods. One is by holding Vietnamese teachers to a high standard. Teachers in Vietnam must display their skills and knowledge at the standard the country outlines. Teachers also need to display professionalism.

The government of Vietnam takes inspiration from other Asian countries that have exceptional education systems. The education in Singapore and South Korea has especially influenced Vietnam’s school curriculum.

Decreasing Poverty for Minorities

One of the most important ways that quality of life in Vietnam is improving is the reduced poverty amongst its ethnic minorities. Much of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities live in the highland areas of Vietnam. These places are often rural, and about 72% of Vietnam’s low-income citizens live there. Luckily, the poverty rate for this group of people declined by 13% in 2018

Many solutions exist to help further improve the economic situation for the minorities living in the highland areas. One solution is for the ethnic minorities in the highlands to grow crops that will sell for more money than common ones. Many of the people living there are already farmers, but they grow basic crops. Crops like coffee and rubber have higher monetary value, so farmers could start growing these.

All of these improvements help the quality of life in Vietnam in numerous ways. Better healthcare means longer lives for Vietnamese people, better education will lead to better job opportunities and alleviating poverty will help ethnic minorities live better lives. 

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

theater accessibilityThe theater is an art form that cultures all across the world partake in. In addition to being enjoyable for many people, exposure to the theater is beneficial. A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania on impoverished residents of New York City found that residents had better long-term outcomes in areas such as “education, security and health” with greater accessibility to cultural resources. Additionally, theater helps people develop emotionally by cultivating empathy, a humanitarian characteristic essential for molding a generation willing to help others living in poverty. A common aspect of poverty is the lack of opportunities available to people. Improving theater accessibility for impoverished people is one way to provide people in poverty with more opportunities.

3 Organizations Improving Theater Accessibility

  1. The Freedom Theatre. This organization is based in the Jenin refugee camp, a camp in the West Bank with a high poverty rate. The Freedom Theater provides Jenin residents with opportunities to engage in theater and workshops through programs in schools. The theater works with children of varying ages. For example, the daycare program allows children younger than 5 to learn and develop creatively. Modeled off Care and Learning, a project that helped children in the Jenin camp work through trauma by participating in the arts, The Freedom Theatre continues this mission by working with young people to help them develop coping skills. The Freedom Theatre’s work greatly improved theater accessibility in an area that previously had few theatrical opportunities for its residents. Thanks to the European Union funding the project, The Freedom Theatre can continue its work.
  2. Khmer Community Development (KCD). The KCD organization is in the Prek Chrey Commune, a community in Cambodia near the Cambodian-Vietnamese border. KCD commits itself to improving peace and understanding in Prek Chrey. Ethnic tension between different groups in the community is an issue that Prek Chrey continues to struggle with, but KCD is addressing it with theater. Using Forum Theater, an art form developed by Augusto Boal in the 1960s, KCD encourages discussion and exploration of social issues by having actors perform a short play that addresses a social issue. Thereafter, the performance is restarted to allow the audience to intervene with ideas to shape the play and develop “a peaceful solution to the issue.” Since it started, KCD’s Forum Theater is particularly popular among youth in the Prek Chrey Commune.
  3. New Africa Theater Association (NATA). Based in Cape Town, South Africa, NATA works to provide opportunities to underserved young people in the Cape Town area. In South Africa, many people between the ages of 18-24 are unemployed. These young people are also often not receiving an education. With this age group having access to theater, the youth develop valuable skills to secure employment. More than 87% of NATA alumni are employed, in school or are continuing to work with NATA. After acquiring its own building, NATA moved to a location where it is more easily accessible to people in Cape Town and surrounding rural areas.

Thanks to the efforts of these three organizations, theater accessibility is improving for disadvantaged people. Importantly, the arts contribute to social well-being while providing valuable opportunities to help vulnerable people rise out of poverty.

– Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Flickr

How Vietnam improved its economy
Vietnam has seen a tremendous amount of growth in various sectors over the past three decades. This growth is largely due in part to economic reforms that have undergone implementation in the country. Before the reforms, Vietnam remained one of the poorest countries in the world. However, it has since grown to become a country with a lower-middle income. The GDP of Vietnam grew tremendously between 2002 and 2018 by increasing 2.7 times. Even in the face of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the economy of Vietnam has been able to remain steadfast and resilient through trying times. Here is some information about how Vietnam improved its economy.

The Doi Moi Reforms

The Doi Moi reforms that the government implemented in 1986 helped Vietnam improved its economy. Under these reforms, Vietnam as a country took three significant steps as a country that would help improve the economy. The first of these steps was embracing free trade.

For many years, Vietnam has entered into various free trade agreements with numerous nations. One includes ASEAN, which Vietnam became a part of back in 1995. Vietnam and the U.S. partnered together by signing a free trade agreement in 2000, and seven years later, Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization. By joining these institutions and forming these alliances, Vietnam has been able to reduce the number of tariffs on imports coming into the country and exports leaving the country.

Making Changes

The second step that the Doi Moi reforms took to better the economy was implementing deregulation and making it cheaper for companies to conduct business within Vietnam. One way this occurred was through the enactment of the Law on Foreign Investment which passed in 1986. This law allowed companies from foreign countries to come into Vietnam to conduct business. Over the years, this law underwent revisions numerous times to better accommodate investors.

This law has improved Vietnam’s competitiveness tremendously over the years. In 2006, Vietnam’s global competitiveness ranked at 77. Only 11 years later in 2017, Vietnam ranked at 55 in world competitiveness. Lastly, the Doi Moi reforms aimed at improving human capital in Vietnam and improving the country’s infrastructure.

To improve the human capital of Vietnam, the government decided to prioritize education within the country. Better education is a must for Vietnam due to its ever-growing population. A larger population means more jobs and citizens must receive quality education to perform them. Infrastructure has been vitally important for the growth of Vietnam’s economy as well. Making sure that all citizens have access to internet services is important for a country due to the technological needs of the modern age.

How It Helps

Vietnam improved its economy due largely to the Doi Moi reforms. Today, the economy of Vietnam continues to flourish. In 2020, during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam’s economy expanded by 2.9%. Compared to other countries at the time, this growth rate was among the highest in the world.

Since 2010, the poverty rate in Vietnam has slowly declined each year. In 2012, the poverty rate was at 40.8%. By 2018, the poverty rate fell almost by 20%, leaving it at 23.1%. As it currently stands, the Vietnamese economy continues to stay strong and grow.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Irish Aid in Vietnam
The S-shaped country of Vietnam has many picturesque sights to behold. Rice paddies stretch out over the Mekong and Red River Deltas that run through the country. Vietnam’s geography includes hills and various elevations with only 20% of the country being flat. Despite the beauty of Vietnam, the people in the country find themselves in need of aid. Since 2005, Ireland has been providing much-needed assistance to Vietnam. Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade runs the Irish Aid Programme. Irish Aid in Vietnam has provided various forms of assistance for the Vietnamese people.

Irish Aid’s Support of Ethnic Minorities

The aid that Ireland offered to Vietnam has given support to numerous sectors within the country. Sectors working with Irish Aid include human rights, agriculture, education and health. From 2011 to 2016, Irish Aid spent 17 million Euros on its Vietnam Country Strategy. One goal that the organization is working toward is the inclusion and provision of sustainable development for the various ethnic minorities that live in Vietnam. The largest of all the ethnic groups in Vietnam is the Kinh, otherwise known as the Viet. There are 53 other ethnic groups outside the Kinh that vary in how much of Vietnam’s population they make up.

Through the Irish embassy in Vietnam, Irish Aid has been addressing the needs that these ethnic groups need to better improve their quality of life. These needs include access to basic nutrition and gender empowerment. Irish Aid determines the needs of these ethnic groups by working with them and partnering with NGOs that are active in Vietnam.

Results of Irish Aid in Vietnam

Vietnam has made many improvements in various areas over the years. Life expectancy in Vietnam rose from 70 years to 76.25 just from 2005 to 2016 according to the World Bank. The stunting rate for children under the age of 5-years-old in Vietnam declined by 5% in only five years. In 2010, the stunting rate was at 29.3% and by 2014, it declined to 24.9%. Some of the work of Irish Aid in Vietnam has benefited the Vietnamese people as well. For one, the program was able to finish 60 different infrastructure projects that improved living conditions for the various ethnic minorities residing in Vietnam. Irish Aid also assisted with landmine removal across a distance of 879,431 meters.

Irish Aid held 132 landmine education sessions that taught about the dangers of landmines in Vietnam. These sessions helped to educate 38,124 children. Lastly, Irish Aid helped 400 people with disabilities in gaining employment or an improved living situation.

Despite the hardships for the people living in Vietnam, Irish Aid continues to assist. Not only has the organization provided aid, but its work has and is having a positive impact on the people of Vietnam.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Vietnam's Foreign Aid When COVID-19 rates began rising in China in the winter of 2019, Vietnam, one of its near neighbors, did not hesitate to act. After experiencing devastating blows in previous years from the SARS virus, another respiratory illness, and the H5N1 virus, Vietnam acted quickly. The government of Vietnam instituted quarantines in cities throughout the country, began contract tracing within the first couple of months of the outbreak and focused on keeping the public as educated as possible. Between January and April 16, 2020, Vietnam recorded fewer than 400 cases of COVID-19 and no deaths. Furthermore, for almost 100 days after this period, Vietnam had zero cases of local transmission. Now, Vietnam’s foreign aid looks to help Vietnam’s neighbors, Laos and Cambodia.

COVID-19 in Laos and Cambodia

In April 2021, Laos and Cambodia suffered a surge of COVID-19 cases that brought concern o Vietnam. Vietnam expressed distress that April’s major national holidays would encourage a spike within Vietnam with people traveling between different countries, undoing Vietnam’s COVID-19 progress. In order to mitigate concerns of rising cases and the risk to Vietnam, Vietnam opted to extend foreign aid to Laos and Cambodia.

Helping Cambodia

In April 2021, the recently appointed Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Jakarta, Indonesia, “on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that had gathered to discuss the Myanmar crisis.” Shortly thereafter, discussions began about continued measures to decrease the impacts of COVID-19. Vietnam agreed to give foreign aid to Cambodia to strengthen its response to COVID-19. This came in the form of a $500,000 donation, “800 respirators, two million medical masks and 300,000 N95 masks.” In this act of aid, Vietnam expresses its close diplomatic relations with Cambodia.

Assisting Laos

Similar discussions also took place with Laos. In anticipation of more cross-border travel because of holiday festivities, Vietnam also offered foreign aid to Laos to strengthen its COVID-19 response. In a similar fashion to Cambodia, Laos also experienced a spike in cases toward the end of April 2021, however, the total number of deaths remains low at just five deaths.

According to The Laotian Times, in early May 2021, the Vietnamese government gave Laos $500,000 as well as medical resources and the support of 35 medical staff to help the country in its fight against COVID-19. The medical workers and resources from Vietnam arrived in Laos at Wattay International Airport. The medical supplies included “200 respirators, 10,000 kilograms of chloramine and two million face masks.”

A Beacon of Hope

Vietnam’s success against COVID-19 is a source of pride for the country. Vietnam’s COVID-19 response has also served as an inspiration to neighboring countries. The tactics put in place early on by the Vietnamese government helped facilitate its success in subsequent months when cases were rising elsewhere. Vietnam’s foreign aid during COVID-19 is helping its neighbors regain hope in recovery. Hopefully, as Vietnam’s foreign aid of both monetary stimulus and medical assistance helps countries recover, other countries will be inspired to reach out a helping hand as well.

– Grace Parker
Photo: Flickr