USAID Helps Vietnam Increase its Rice YieldsAs climate change affects agriculture across the developing world, food security is a painful reality for farmers who depend on their crops to eat and eke out a meager living. Every grain of rice they grow is valued — USAID is helping farmers in Vietnam to bolster their harvest yields.

USAID, the United States Agency for International Development, implemented the Vietnam Forests and Deltas Program in 2012, aimed at promoting rice production practices that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve livelihoods with Vietnam’s agricultural extension services.

The program is focused on enhancing climate change resilience and working with all echelons of the Vietnamese society, from the community level up to the national level. Farmers are learning new agricultural techniques and are putting into practice climate-smart livelihoods in order to improve quality of life. They are applying new national policies and strategies in response to rising temperatures and changing weather pattern concerns. The program mainly concentrates on environmental conditions in Vietnam’s vulnerable forest and delta landscapes.

The Thanh Hoa and Kon Tum provinces have been selected by pilots for moving green growth strategies. With the implementation of innovative land use planning and training programs including local government, civil society and the private sector are demonstrating measurable improvements in carbon stocks and environmental services.

The Mekong and Red River Delta areas are increasingly falling victim to climate-related hazards such as storms, flooding, drought, salinity and sea level rise. These deltas are home to some of the most heavily populated and economically productive areas of Vietnam, making the region especially important as well as vulnerable to the country’s stability. USAID is working with the government and communities of the Long An and Nam Dinh provinces to help the population identify climate-related risks and how to take action in order to provide long term resilience.

USAID is working in partnership with several organizations including Winrock International, Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, provincial governments, the Netherlands Development Organization, American Red Cross, Vietnam Red Cross and the Center for Sustainable Rural Development.

In Long An province, with training provided by USAID, farmers across the region have boosted rice yields dramatically, in many cases up to 25 percent more. This means that families once struggling with food insecurity and little to no profit from rice sales are eating better and making a better living, improving quality of life.

Before The Vietnam Forests and Deltas Program went into effect, farmers with minimal agricultural experience suffered preventable crop losses due to ignorance such as overuse or imbalance of fertilizers. As a result of the program, people learned how to apply new techniques including development of internal drainage lines and favoring conditions that lead to stronger and healthier rice plants such as rice paddy leveling.

No matter what one’s views of climate change are, it is a very real problem for the poor with real effects on the people struggling to survive in the delta and forest regions of Vietnam. USAID has proved an essential resource in the developing world. With the programs offered by the agency and its partners, poverty could soon be a thing of the past.

– Jason Zimmerman

Sources: USAID 1, USAID 2, Winrock, MARD

Photo: OceanBitesE

Outside of the United States, Ho Chi Minh City is one of the largest urban cities in the world. For the last 10 to 15 years, the city has been growing rapidly. The gross domestic product is now USD $3000. Thanks to the vast development of its infrastructure and improved access to community devices, the city’s resiliency is slowly bringing civilians out of poverty.

Urban poverty had been on the rise since the start of the 21st century. The city has dealt with flooding and lack of sanitation, leading to serious problems for many residents. In some cases, alleyways had no drainage. They flooded, accumulated garbage and gave mosquitoes a place to thrive.

Back in 2010, 54 percent of residents in Ho Chi Minh City did not have access to social security systems or educational, health-related and social services. Basic needs such as tap water and the instillation of drainage systems were not available; neither was proper housing.

A 2012 report showed improvement. With a population of 9 million, Ho Chi Minh City’s GDP of USD $3000 is one fifth of Vietnam’s total GDP. Its market has expanded and so has its resiliency. Though the center’s population growth is stable, urban and suburban areas are expected to increase steadily.

There has been economic growth. However, inequality and access to services have kept people in poverty; income had little to nothing to do with their status. Those who were unregistered had it worse. Struggles with population compression was congesting traffic and minimizing expansion efforts.

In 2014, Nguyen Xe of the Steering Committee for Poverty Reduction designed a plan to use data collected from multidimensional poverty (MDP) research to alleviate the problem. Because urban poverty is caused by the incompatibility of public services, the MDP report gathered from 2013 helped the city focus its development on certain targets.

A program known as The Vietnam Urban Upgrading Project has been implementing changes in Hai Phong, Nam Dinh, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho. It has benefited 7.5 million people total in Vietnam. This project also handed out 95,000 loans to the bottom 40 percent in poverty. Nearly 100 percent of these loans are paid back.

Supported by the World Bank, this project has helped 200 low-income regions and changed the lives of 2.5 million people in the city. It paved wider and cleaner streets; now, vehicles like ambulances and firetrucks can pass through quickly. According to statistics, 360 miles of roads have been upgraded.

Canals, lakes, sewers and bridges were reconstructed and have managed to benefit five million residents. Canals up to 18 miles long have been redone. Seventeen acres of lakes are now in contact with drainage. Three hundred and ten miles of these drain systems have been improved.

This has taken away the possibility of flooding hazards, increased environmental safety and made it more secure for children to run and play. Kindergartens, schools, health clinics and community centers have been improved in poor regions with the project’s help.

The World Bank is actively involved in financing changes for the city, having sent $382 million to improve the economy. An amount of $140 million was provided by the Vietnamese government to help change the lives of many.

Keiko Sato, the World Bank County Director from Vietnam, hopes to alleviate poverty by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. The World Bank is committed to improving the infrastructure of Ho Chi Minh City; it provided the city with $124 million in May 2015.

The goal is to upgrade public transportation and turn it into a sustainable system. The places affected by the change include the Bus Rapid Transit between An Lac and Rach Chiec. This will benefit 14 miles of urban transportation and 28 stations. At least 28,300 people will be given improved transportation in metro, rail and bus lines.

Busses will be running on natural gas that is cleaner than what is currently being used, and pollution is expected to decrease as a result. Additions will also help those who are disabled and women with strollers to access the system. This new foundation will let Ho Chi Minh City develop institutions that manage public transportation more efficiently.

The city has a long way to go. Increasing infrastructure is one way to benefit the economy and reach out to all livelihoods. Many are still out of touch and pollution is a problem. But with these development projects and funding from communities, governments and the World Bank, Ho Chi Minh City and the rest of Vietnam are on their way to solving some of their toughest problems with poverty.

– Katie Groe

Sources: World Bank 1, World Bank 2, New Geography, UNDP 1, UNDP 2
Photo: New Geography

Over 1.75 million Vietnamese children, 9.6 percent of the population of people under 18 in the country, are laborers. Child Labor in Vietnam consists of children who are forced to work long hours, normally with little to no pay, in crowded factories or on agricultural farms. One third of the children work an average of 42 hours per week, and the majority are not able to attend school.

Labor trafficking — both domestically and internationally — is a major problem. As explained by a BBC report, trafficking gangs normally target rural villages, where they offer to take kids to cities in order to give them vocational training or technical skills. Parents normally agree because the people in these remote communities are not aware of the risks of human trafficking. Also, traffickers benefit from the “golden egg” culture of Vietnam, where children are sent to work abroad and send money back for the family.

Rather than receiving vocational training, the children taken from rural villages are forced to work, some in factories, some in domestic labor and others in agricultural labor. BBC discussed the case of Hieu (who declined to give his real name), an 18-year-old boy who was taken from the rural village of Dien Bien. Dien Bien is in the northwest, on the border of Vietnam and China. It is one of the poorest areas in the country.

Hieu was put into a small room, where he and the 11 other kids taken from his village were forced to work from 6 a.m. until midnight. They received no pay, and were beaten with a stick if they made a mistake. Hieu was finally able to escape when he and two other teenage boys jumped out the third story window at 1 a.m. Hieu has since been helped by the Blue Dragon Foundation, a Vietnamese-based charity that works to help child trafficking victims, and is now training to be a mechanic.

Groups like the Blue Dragon Foundation are making a difference. The foundation itself has rescued over 230 child trafficking victims since 2005. However, child trafficking continues to remain an issue in Vietnam, and Blue Dragon co-founder Michael Brosowski explained that it is likely getting worse because people are realizing how lucrative it can be.

Vietnam has been praised for its efforts to crack down on child trafficking internationally, since it has increased the number of prosecutions it holds to help end overseas gang activity. However, Vietnam’s control of child trafficking within the country itself needs to increase. Internal trafficking only became officially recognized in 2011, and traffickers are normally not given harsh punishments. The person who trafficked Hieu and the 11 other children from Dien Bien was fined $500 and his factory was closed down, but he did not go to court.

Part of the confusion over what sort of punishment must be given those who traffic internally in Vietnam stems from the fact that some child laborers are paid. While they are normally paid only a small amount, some argue that if a child who is poor, does not have enough to eat and had dropped out of school goes to a factory and gets paid, it is not necessarily a bad thing.

While there is still debate over trafficking within Vietnam, it has been more firmly established that trafficking Vietnamese children internationally needs to be stopped. As The Guardian said, one of the major destinations for traffickers who send Vietnamese children abroad to work is Britain, where over 3000 children are sent to work on cannabis farms, in nail bars, garment factories, brothels or in domestic labor. In order to combat this influx, in March of 2015, the UK passed a bill designed to increase the prosecution of traffickers and give more rights to those sent into modern slavery. However, some Vietnamese children who are sent to the UK and forced to work in cannabis cultivation are prosecuted for their actions, while their traffickers are not.

In recent years, a lot has been done in order to stop child labor within Vietnam and to stop the flow of Vietnamese children who are being trafficked into modern slavery around the world. However, in order to continue the fight against child labor and human trafficking, laws have to be more strictly enforced and clear conditions have to be set about how to punish those who traffic internally.

Ashrita Rau

Sources: BBC, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, Stop Child Labor: The Child Labor Coalition, Vietnam: The US Embassy, International Labour Organization
Photo: Sapa Trek

Vietnam has been making strides in its development over the past few decades; the country has seen a reduction in poverty and an increase in the standard of living. The Vietnamese government has invested heavily in its reformed education system, especially when it comes to literacy. Ninety percent of the working-age population is now literate and 98% of primary-school-age children are enrolled in school. The gender gap in education that plagues many other countries is nearly nonexistent in Vietnam, as the enrollment rates are comparable for boys and girls. Furthermore, 25% of college-age adults are enrolled in tertiary education.

These numbers are the product of many years of change in the Vietnamese education system. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the French colonized Vietnam, and very few citizens were able to attend school. With French considered the dominant language of the country at the time, nearly the entire population was illiterate. After Vietnam gained independence in 1945, the government began focusing on improving literacy rates and reforming the education system. Violent conflicts and economic crises made this difficult for many years, but the most recent decade has seen steady progress.

Vietnam first entered the PISA test in 2012. This test measured how 500,000 students from schools in 65 countries answered written and multiple-choice questions. Vietnam ranked 17th in math, eighth in science, and 19th in reading, thus outranking some developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. These results were a positive surprise worldwide.

There has been much discussion about the reasons behind Vietnam’s recent success. The government has been focused on investing in the education system — 21% of all government expenditure is devoted to education. Furthermore, teachers have been traditionally highly respected in Vietnamese culture and they are expected to meet high standards and stay committed to professional development. However, there is concern that strong PISA performance does not tell the whole story.

While the enrollment rates are high for primary school, only 65% of secondary school-age students attend school. Poor or disadvantaged students often drop out, and their scholastic abilities (or lack thereof) were not reflected in the PISA scores. While more privileged students scored high, students who may have lowered the scores were left out of the picture entirely.

Some Vietnamese schools have the resources to focus on creativity and critical problem solving, but most encourage rote learning and memorization. These methods can result in impressive test scores, but do not serve students well once they are out of school. Sadly, corruption is also an issue in Vietnamese schools, particularly elite schools, which sometimes sell students places for extremely high prices.

Although the Vietnamese education system has a long way to go, the recent PISA scores are positive signs of things to come. In the long process of recovering from years of conflict, these reforms in the school system have brought about progress and a more educated populace. As Vietnam develops, schools can continue to improve and effectively serve students of all economic backgrounds.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: BBC, The Economist, World Education News and Reviews, World Bank
Photo: Global Playground

art programs
Education reform, particularly in Vietnam’s rural areas, is slow. With the social gap pushing the Kinh majority and ethnic minorities further apart, alleviating rural poverty is becoming increasingly difficult. Rural minority children are being left behind. Thankfully, there are some humanitarian relief programs that are determined to make a difference.

The Rock Paper Scissors Children’s Fund was started by an American mother of two adopted Vietnamese girls. She wanted to help her daughters’ native land by introducing opportunities in art and music in the village of Cam Duc.

The organization joins with local schools and orphanages to foster hundreds of children’s penchant for art. The Rock Paper Scissors Children’s Fund uses donations to help with the children’s school and book fees, purchase more art supplies and bring in more instruments, since students share violins. The organization not only hopes to reach more children, but also to help them effectively. The Rock Paper Scissors Children’s Fund takes children beyond the restrictive parameters of the everyday classroom and builds community.

Similarly, the Catalyst Foundation partners with adoption agencies. This foundation organizes cultural camps and hosts the annual Little Red Fairy My Vietnam Contest. The contest is an opportunity for the foundation to hand out scholarships in order to motivate children to continue developing their talents.

Tohe is an art program that focuses on impoverished children throughout the country, not exclusively in rural villages. Established in 2006, Tohe has a special focus on disabled children. Tohe holds weekly classes at welfare centers in and around Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital.

The program aims to raise confidence within the children and decrease the social stigma surrounding disabled children. These classes have creative playgrounds, where children use clay and recycled materials to create patterns, toys and structures.

Some of the art pieces are incorporated in commercial merchandise, such as prints for laptop cases and clothing. Tohe hopes to expand its collaboration with retailers. Profits are cycled back to Tohe to help improve the program. To date, over a thousand children have been touched by this initiative. The program wishes to merge with the education sector in order to create a greater influence.

The survival of small scale art programs is difficult. In most countries around the world, developed or developing, art is often seen as a past time chiefly for the privileged. Even in the West, funding for the arts in school is lacking. By high school, students are prompted to choose courses that will steer them toward a practical career. These courses are often in science, technology or business.

Moreover, there is sometimes stigma around making art into a career because of the financial position in which it often results. In growing up, there is a pressing expectation for practicality.

The expectation to be practical is palpable even more so in impoverished regions of the world. Households withdraw their children from basic schooling so they can help contribute to the family income. If these families reach a point where they must give up basic education, then pursuing the arts is surely out of the question.

It is important to show governments the importance of a well-rounded education. In order to break the cycle of poverty, building a future for children must start with promoting their growth in critical thinking and their use of imagination.

-Carmen Tu

Sources: Adopt Vietnam, GIVE, Indiegogo – Tohe, Rock Paper Scissors Children’s Fund, UNICEF
Photo: Rock Paper Scissors Children’s Fund

Poverty in Vietnam
Over the years, Vietnam has made incredible strides against poverty. During the 1990s, the number of people living in poverty in Vietnam was around 60 percent and today that number has dropped to less than 20.7 percent. On July 17, 2014, the nation demonstrated its continued commitment to fighting poverty with the announcement of a joint government and World Bank Group study.

The study will detail policies Vietnam should undertake to continue increasing economic growth. It will also pinpoint the specific obstacles the country needs to overcome in order to ensure sustainable growth, modernization and prosperity for all social classes.

By working with the World Bank Group, the government of Vietnam hopes to increase the country’s economic competitiveness and, in so doing, help its citizens prosper. One way the nation seeks to reduce poverty is by improving the efficiency of the economy in attracting foreign and domestic investments. Increased private sector investments will lead to higher job creation, free flowing capital and innovation, which will be beneficial to everyone.

The study’s aim is to boost Vietnam’s economy to reform policies that widen inequality, and create more opportunities for everyone in the country. Such measures include demanding more transparency from businesses and state-owned enterprises.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim plan to have their agencies finish the study within one year. The hope is that, through observations made in the study, Vietnam will be able to guide its economy to reach the marker of a high-income nation within a single generation.

In addition announcing the study, Dung and Kim finalized plans for five new projects which credit Vietnam with over $876 million. The World Bank Group also loaned about $3.8 billion over the next three years to the country through the IDA, a fund used by The World Bank for the world’s poorest nations.

The financing now makes Vietnam the second biggest IDA recipient to date.

The government will use recommendations from the study to apply these funds in a way that increases private sector investment.

The effort comes as a continuation of the World Bank Group’s investment in Vietnam, as IFC, a World Bank Group member that deals only with private sector development, has contributed $5 billion to the nation’s private sector over the past 20 years.

With Vietnam’s growth rate averaging over 6.4 percent per year for over 10 years, it is hoped that renewed investment in the private sector will increase growth and help bring more individuals out of poverty.

The government of Vietnam and the World Bank Group’s efforts aim to lead the country down the path of economic growth and prosperity for all because, despite the nation’s sustained progress over the past 20 years, income inequality has grown. With this new study and loans from the World Bank Group, Vietnam seeks to foster growth that is accessible to all of its citizens and continue reducing the prevalence of poverty throughout the country.

Kathleen Egan

Sources: World Bank, Thanhnien News, USAID
Photo: World Bank

vietnamese fishermen
The South China Sea has been a topic of debate within the international community for months now, with Vietnam and China struggling to come to a consensus regarding sovereignty. Both countries claim sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and when the China National Offshore Oil Corporation placed its first oilrig just 130 nautical miles off of the Vietnamese coast in the beginning of May, tensions rose between the two governments.

However, this is far beyond a political and legal dispute. In the midst of this conflict, fishermen who use this sea area as their usual fishing grounds are struggling to get by. For example, the Chinese authorities instituted a ban from April to August, which marks the “high season” for Vietnamese fishermen, who refer to this area as the “East Sea.”

Since there is no regional authority in this particular sea area, Professor Erik Franckx, a sea law expert, noted that the Chinese have a right to impose a ban on Chinese fishermen, but not fishermen from other countries.

Although there is often conflict in the South China Sea between Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen, many fishermen have reported to the press that if there is any technical trouble or a boat is in any danger, they help each other. It is healthy competition. However, with the new political conflict between the governments, tensions are rising at sea.

For example, there have been cases of Vietnamese fishing boats being hit by Chinese fishermen. Huynh Thi Nhu Hoa, the owner of a fishing company reported that their boat was hit by a Chinese vessel and sank about 16 nautical miles from the oilrig. This caused all of the fishermen on the boat to lose their jobs in the meantime.

The ban that China has placed is seriously affecting the Vietnamese fishing industry as noted by Tran Van Linh, the chairman of Da Nag’s Fishery Association. He explained that “the oil rig is seriously affecting [their] fishing industry because its placement denies [their] fishermen access to” the area surrounding the Paracel Islands where the catch is much more plentiful.

Apart from the difficulties Vietnamese fishermen face with the ban, boats have also been confiscated. The Da Nang Fishery Association also lost 15 boats due to confiscation by the Chinese authorities in the last year.

Although efforts have been made between the governments, there are no signs of near future progress. The talk held on June 18 between Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh proved unsuccessful, demonstrating the strong stance both countries are taking on the matter.

Matters only seem to worsen, as in early July Chinese authorities arrested six Vietnamese fishermen caught in “Chinese waters.” Occurrences such as these have caused violent protests in Vietnam, as citizens are worried about the condition of their fishing industry. Recent protests have left at least two dead and numerous factories burnt to the ground.

As the situation progresses, other nearby countries are getting involved as well. The Philippines is outraged at the situation and has taken measures to take China to a United Nations tribunal.

Although political resolutions are vital, it is clear due to recent occurrences that progress is imperative for the sake of the safety and prosperity of Vietnamese fishermen who require access to the South China or the East Sea.

– Cambria Arvizo

Sources: ABC Local, BBC News Asia, Aljazeera
Photo: Dreams Time

In the past two decades, Vietnam has made incredible progress. Not long ago, it was considered a developing country; however, since the introduction of the Doi Moi reforms of 1986, Vietnamese per capita income has increased from $100 to $1,130 (USD) in 2010. The population rate of poverty decreased from 58 percent in 1993 to a much smaller 14.5 percent as of 2008, a figure that continues to diminish yearly. Vietnam‘s economy has progressed impressively. With the embrace of free market reforms and an influx of foreign development and investment, its private sector has enjoyed immense job growth. The nation swiftly achieved half of its 10 United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and will likely reach an additional two MDGs within the next year. It is clear to the international arena that Vietnam is well on its way to both modernization and economic prowess. According to UNICEF, Vietnam’s MDG of focus was one aiming to eliminate food poverty. Efforts to achieve this goal meant food poverty rate decreased by over 66 percent — going from 25 percent in 1993 to just 6.9 percent as of 2008. To put this statistic in a perspective, about 15 percent of the U.S. population exhibited food poverty in 2012. Despite these encouraging improvements, malnutrition in Vietnam remains a serious concern. The country’s large child population — numbering approximately 26 million — still suffers disproportionately from malnutrition. Currently, one-third of all children in Vietnam under 5 years of age experience stunted growth resulting from chronic malnutrition. Additionally, 20 percent of this young population is regarded as malnourished and under healthy weight baselines. As the country continues swiftly on its progressive trajectory, steps must be taken to combat these statistics and lower the high incidence of child malnutrition. As the nation’s economy is heavily based in agriculture, it exports huge amounts of produce. Some argue that portions of this surplus could be easily directed toward child malnutrition, resulting in a significantly healthier and happier population. As the Doi Moi continue into the next few years, hopefully this MDG will be reached. – Arielle Swett Sources: Feeding America, World Bank, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2 Photo: UNICEF

Prominent human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan was recently convicted for tax evasion in Vietnam in another example of Vietnam’s arbitrary detention practices aimed at those criticizing the Communist Party.

This is not the first time Le Quoc Quan has run afoul with the Vietnamese authorities.

In 2007, Quon returned to his home country after spending several months researching civil society and economic development in Washington, D.C., at which time he was promptly arrested on trumped up charges of subversion. After much public anger over his arrest he was released, but the authorities kept close watch of his activities.

His most recent run-in with the law came in December 2013, when he criticized Article 4 in the Vietnam constitution, which enshrines the superiority of the Communist Party.

The court convicted him of tax evasion, a common charge for those who are considered political dissidents by the Communist party. He is currently imprisoned in Hanoi.

Despite the seeming hopelessness of his situation, Le Quoc Quan has not lost his vigorous penchant for dissent. As of February, he is currently on a hunger strike within prison.

His situation has garnered international attention, specifically from the United Nations, who has called for his immediate release or for an independent court to conduct his trial.

Unfortunately, Quan’s predicament seems to be too common of an occurrence in a country that rests in the firm grip of the Communist Party; the only legal party in Vietnam.

The list of episodes exhibiting Vietnam’s unwillingness to support basic human rights enjoyed in more developed nations is quite lengthy. For instance, no independent media is permitted; freedom of assembly, expression and religion are extremely restricted.

Also, workers who toil away in factories are not allowed to speak out against the harsh working conditions they endure. In 2010, several factory workers were convicted and imprisoned with sentences ranging from seven years to nine years simply for organizing their fellow workers in the shoe factory that employed them.

Le Quoc Quan’s future seems uncertain, but not without a glimmer of hope. The appellate division of the Hanoi Supreme People’s Court will hear his case on February 18.

The international attention Quan has gained could tip the court’s ruling in his favor. But despite the possibility of a small victory, Vietnam has significant steps to take before their human rights situation improves.

In a brazen display of hypocrisy, the Vietnamese government announced several lofty goals at its Universal Periodic Review conducted by the UN Human Rights Council. The country’s representative stated that protecting human rights through judicial reform is a chief government concern.

Several of the measures stated such, as the right to a fair trial, providing independent judges to serve on courts and allowing lawyers to freely defend their clients would be a welcome change. But many nations remain skeptical of the government’s alleged enthusiasm for initiating these much needed reforms.

– Zachary Lindberg

Sources: Human Rights Watch, The Diplomat
Photo: Front-line Defenders

A mother’s typical question to a child, “did you wash your hands?” may have seemed like a pesky reminder when growing up, but research shows that hand-washing is one of the most important and live-saving habits that can be instilled in a society. Hand-washing with soap has been shown to reduce the incidence of diarrhea by almost one half and of acute respiratory infections by roughly one third.

Since hand-washing is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce deaths of children under five from diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia – possibly by up to 70% -, the global health soap brand Lifebuoy is teaming up with USAID to create a neonatal program designed to raise awareness of the link between newborn survival and hand washing with soap.

The program targets new mothers and birth attendants through antenatal clinics and health workers. The campaign also uses innovative videos to appeal to the mother’s maternal instinct by communicating the message “hand-washing helps your child survive.” Persuasive advocates such as the Indian actress Kajol also support the cause and help generate awareness of the importance of hand-washing, especially after having used the toilet or before preparing food.

Another initiative which aims to modify everyday behavior is the Global Scaling Up Hand-washing Project, supported by the World Bank in countries such as Peru, Senegal, Tanzania, and Vietnam. These interventions found that while will and motivation to change habits might be present, hand-washing is also dependent on the ease of access to both water and soap. In this way, the program has aimed to make changes in the way soap and water are accessed in households.

The initiative has also found that in countries such as Senegal, men can also play a critical part in the behavior-changing process. Since they are seen as the role-models or leaders of their households, future interventions will also incorporate campaigns that include or are aimed at men.

– Nayomi Chibana
Feature Writer 

Sources: USAID, World Bank
Photo: Old Picture of the Day