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 stands at 75.5 years, which is especially impressive when considering the U.S. life expectancy of 77.3 years. These 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 several other improvements.

3 Improvements in Vietnam

  1. Better Health Care. One indicator of improving the quality of life in Vietnam is health care. The maternal mortality rate in Vietnam has reduced fourfold over recent years. The number of deaths among children younger than 5 has also reduced by half. Progress like this has become possible due to better access to reliable health care 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. Fortunately, UNICEF is providing help to further improve health care and, as a result, improve the quality of life in Vietnam further. UNICEF provides its services to health care personnel throughout Vietnam so that they can provide better care to the Vietnamese people.
  2. Better Education. A better education system is yet another way of improving the quality of life in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government achieves this through several 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.
  3. Decreasing Poverty for Minorities. One of the most important ways that the quality of life in Vietnam is improving is the reduced poverty rates among 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 reside there. Fortunately, 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 crops. Many of the people living in the highlands already engage in farming, but they grow basic crops. Crops like coffee and rubber plants have higher monetary value, so farmers could start growing these.

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

– 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

Vietnam rice farming appFarming is becoming more valuable to Vietnam’s development as a nation. Vietnam has a rapidly growing economy and is highly reliant on its agricultural sector. The value of Vietnam’s agriculture, fishing and forestry markets accounted for almost 15% of the country’s GDP in 2020. However, there are a few roadblocks standing in the way of Vietnamese agricultural success. A Vietnam rice farming app is helping farmers to overcome these obstacles.

Rice and Salt Water

Vietnam is one of the world’s biggest rice producers. These rice farmers depend on certain environmental conditions to take place in order to produce their influential yield. If natural variables are out of alignment, an entire season’s crop can go to waste. Without a successful crop, the livelihood of farmers is put at risk and they can easily slip into poverty. Thankfully, a Vietnam rice farming app was designed to keep rice farmers aware of precisely how their paddies are doing.

The smartphone app is helpful for farmers all across Vietnam, including in the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta is a vast expanse in the southern part of Vietnam where the majority of the country’s farming and fishing occurs. The pronounced wet and dry seasons affect the delta greatly since it’s a very low-lying area. During the wet season, there is plenty of fresh rainwater that fills the rivers. In the dry season, rivers are not filled with rainwater, so seawater laden with salt flows into them. A high saltwater content in rice fields can make the roots of the rice inefficient at absorbing water and can kill the plant. Regulating the salt content is a crucial aspect of being a rice paddy farmer. The Vietnam rice farming app aims to help local farmers monitor salt levels among its various other features to protect farms.

Impact of the App

Technology is offering a simple solution to the problem. The Vietnamese government, in conjunction with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), launched a mobile app that provides farmers with information about the state of water in their rice paddies. This Vietnam rice farming app reports data collected by various sensors placed on farms across the Mekong Delta to each app user.

This Vietnam rice farming app gets information to the farmers quickly, which helps the farmers to make the necessary changes before it’s too late. Farmers can easily check the app for updates on the water quality in their rice paddies, such as the water’s salinity, pH, alkalinity and tidal water levels. This information helps farmers to prevent their crops from going to waste. For example, when the app reports salinity being too high, farmers know they must pump fresh water into the fields.

Before this mobile app, farmers were only getting one out of the usual three harvests annually. During a salinity wave, 300,000 hectares of rice fields were lost. But due to the implementation of the sensors and tracking abilities, the next salinity wave brought only 21,000 hectares of damage. This Vietnam rice farming app is protecting farmers from the costly reality of a ruined crop.

Of Poverty and Rice

The Vietnam rice farming app has a broad impact. About half of Vietnam’s 47 million labor force workers engage in agriculture and a poor harvest could prove detrimental to many Vietnamese people. Many in Vietnam don’t have savings and live a subsistence lifestyle, which can make any financial blow very serious. This is particularly true for the nearly 70% of the country lives in rural areas where poverty is especially concerning. The rate of rural poverty is around three times the urban poverty rate. By reducing the variables and uncertainty in the farming process with an app, Vietnamese farmers can feel empowered and less threatened about falling into extreme poverty. Utilizing this technology in agricultural practices can help save the rice paddies and protect against poverty in Vietnam.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Flickr

Deforestation in VietnamVietnam is a Southeast Asian country along the east coast of the Indochinese Peninsula. Its tropical climate makes it a naturally biodiverse place, but deforestation in Vietnam threatens the livelihoods of citizens. In April 2021, USAID approved two new projects totaling $74 million to help fight deforestation in Vietnam and improve the lives of thousands of citizens in poverty who rely on forests to live.

Deforestation in Vietnam

Deforestation in Vietnam is very severe. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the South Vietnam Lowland Dry Forests region is the most degraded forest outside India. Despite being home to many endangered species, only 2% of the forests are designated as protected. Furthermore, about 90% of the forests are subject to deforestation. The U.N. emphasizes that protecting biodiversity and restoring previously exploited land will improve the quality of life for citizens in countries worldwide. Indigenous and rural communities, in particular, will benefit from reversing deforestation as the protection of forest resources decreases the economic vulnerability of these groups.

The Sustainable Forest Management Project

The USAID Sustainable Forest Management project partners with the Vietnamese Government, the Vietnam Forest Owner Association (VIFORA) and forest owners to minimize the impacts of deforestation in seven of Vietnam’s most affected provinces. The main objective of this project is to develop and enforce forest conservation policies. This includes funding to increase the Vietnamese Government’s ability to prosecute deforestation crimes.

Execution of this program also involves working with the authorities, private companies and local forest owners to extend the reach of the Payment for Forest Environmental Services program. This mechanism provides direct monetary compensation to residents for forest protection efforts. Strong partnerships between aid organizations and local implementers allow these programs to help the target populations build self-sufficiency effectively.

USAID allotted $36 million for this project. In addition to funding forest management policies, this program directly helps Vietnamese communities living in forest land by promoting sustainable lifestyle practices for forest dwellers.  An estimated 250,000 hectares of forest and 70 organizations will benefit from the program. The program will also benefit the 60,000 individuals living in Vietnam’s forests who are expected to have improved and more sustainable livelihoods.

The Biodiversity Conservation Project

The USAID Biodiversity Conservation project partners with the World Wildlife Fund to provide economical alternatives for activities that lead to Vietnam’s deforestation. The project focuses on substituting forest-harming industries with forest-preserving ones. The project has the potential to increase incomes for forest-dwelling communities while reversing deforestation in Vietnam. The Biodiversity Conservation project relies on strong partnerships with the Vietnamese Government and local organizations for effective implementation.

USAID allotted $38 million for this project, which will benefit 700,000 hectares of forest land. An additional 7,000 individuals living in Vietnam’s forests will also gain income opportunities from forest-friendly endeavors. In addition, 250 villages will receive increased protection of their natural environments with a 50% decrease in animal hunting and consumption.

Deforestation in Vietnam threatens the livelihoods of the most disadvantaged populations still living in forest land. Despite this vulnerability, the Vietnamese Government struggles to stop deforestation without foreign aid. USAID’s two projects not only fight deforestation but promote practices that will directly help lift forest dwellers out of poverty.

Viola Chow
Photo: Pixabay

Health care in VietnamVietnam has a notoriously fragmented, scattered and inefficient health care provider market. With more than 50,000 clinics across the country, it is difficult to book appointments or make accurate decisions about which doctors or clinics will best serve the health needs within a specific price range. The Vietnamese start-up, Docosan, provides customers with a single database of clinics filtered by the location and medical need.
Additionally, the app offers prices and reviews and gives customers the ability to book appointments. As a private firm, this startup streamlines health care in Vietnam and makes the health care market accessible to all.

A Notoriously Fragmented and Overextended Market

Before 1990, hospitals operated under a socialist model that discouraged any profit motive. However, after the early 1990 hospital reforms, hospitals began to charge private fees. The result was an improvement in the quality of health care in Vietnam. From 1990 to 2015, life expectancy increased from 71 to 76 and infant mortality decreased from 58 deaths for every 1,000 deaths to 18. In addition, underweight infants decreased from 37% of the population to only 14%.

Nonetheless, serious administrative problems remain. In Vietnam, a total of 1,531 hospitals exist with more than 50,000 clinics. This abundance of providers has resulted in a scrambled system that leads to overextension of resources and administrative capacity. Although an overflow of health care providers exists, the usage is concentrated. For example, private health care providers make up only 6% of all health care facilities while private health care providers provide 60% of outpatient services. Moreover, the private health care providers are almost exclusively located in urban areas. As a study on public hospital governance found, 48% of patients traveled from the provinces to the central providers.

As a result, the system is fragmented and overextended while most patients are concentrated in a minority of providers in the central and provincial hospitals. For instance, bed occupancy rates have reached between 120% and 160% in central hospitals. Three patients per bed is not an uncommon phenomenon.

Hospitals and Clinics

All of this begs the question, why do people choose hospitals much farther away than closer clinics to wait in long lines and receive only a portion of the required care? A part of the explanation can be simply that large national hospitals provide better care with more resources. Yet, a cultural explanation also provides insight into this question. By having an abundance of options and no central database to receive the necessary information to choose which doctor or hospital to receive care from, many Vietnamese rely on the recommendations of friends and families. The Vietnamese health care provider market is overextended and simultaneously concentrated in a select few hospitals. As a result, there are long wait times, resource scarcity in most hospitals and an overall lack of accurate market signals, which create inefficiencies in and of themselves.

Docosan

In other words, a need exists to consolidate the information and make booking appointments more accessible. However, many have responded to meet this need. In collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Communication, the Ministry of Health launched a virtual platform to connect doctors and patients. Moreover, private start-ups like Pharmicity, Buy Med and e-Doctor have variations of a forum like this as each one seeks to streamline healthcare providers.

The Docosan application breaks down its search by both geography and health need. From there, it presents a set of doctors within the parameters for users to compare prices and reviews. Customers also have the opportunity to choose a doctor and set up an appointment. In essence, Docosan is significantly improving the market by centralizing the information, providing user-friendly access to the information and giving customers the ability to book appointments through a service that is free for users.

Although this may sound rudimentary, it is revolutionary. Now, customers no longer need to instinctively head to the large central hospitals with no appointment or idea if the hospital will provide the care they need. Customers can find the appropriate hospital or doctor and book an appointment. Meanwhile, doctors can reach a more extensive customer base while focusing more on patients by handing administrative tasks to Docosan. Beth Ann Lopez, a former Peace Corp and USAID worker who moved to Southeast Asia, founded Docosan in February 2020. As of October 2020, the platform had more than 70 doctors and 2,000 users. However, the numbers expeditiously increased to 50,000 users and more than 300 health care providers by April 2021. Therefore, scaling may be a problem as the number of users increases by 20% to 40% a month.

Looking Ahead

Nevertheless, Docosan received a massive boost in funding to help with this problem of scaling. In April 2021, Docosan received more than $1 million in seed funding that the Taiwanese-based firm, AppWorks, led. Docosan claims this is the largest seed funding for a Vietnamese health tech firm. With this boost, Docosan is looking to increase its specialized care options. This seed funding has brought high expectations. As Lopez, says, “Our long-term goal with Docosan is to transform how people access health care in Vietnam. We want it to be as easy as booking a taxi on an app.” Docosan is setting out to revolutionize health care in Vietnam by simply streamlining the decision process.

– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Vietnam
Although poverty has reduced in Vietnam, child poverty in Vietnam is still a key issue. Due to political reforms, Vietnam has enjoyed steady economic growth and poverty reduction over the past few decades. In fact, per the World Bank, Vietnam’s poverty rate has decreased from 50% in the 1950s to 2% as of 2019. Despite these recent gains, around 4 million Vietnamese children still live under the poverty line. In fact, 24% of Vietnamese children suffer from stunting due to malnutrition, while 10% are out of school. Ethnic minorities, especially those living in rural areas, are particularly high-risk for child poverty.

Today, many organizations are fighting child poverty in Vietnam decreases and children receive a happy, healthy start. Here are three nonprofits fighting child poverty in Vietnam.

Children of Vietnam

Founded in 1998, Children of Vietnam aims to utilize effective, personal strategies to lift children out of poverty. The organization focuses on serving particularly vulnerable youth. This includes those with disabilities, ethnic minorities and students at risk of dropping out of school.

The organization has several initiatives helping various groups impacted by child poverty in Vietnam, such as the Empowering Single Mothers Initiative. This initiative works to meet the immediate needs of single mothers and their children while simultaneously helping them develop important business and educational skills. The program involves microloans, training on micro-business and school scholarships for single mothers’ children. Another initiative is the Delivering Clean Water and Sanitation Initiative which operates by bringing large water filtration systems to schools and communities in rural areas. In 2021 alone, the nonprofit has provided 1 million meals to hungry children, 480 interventions to children with disabilities and 795 scholarships.

Save the Children

Save the Children began working in Vietnam in 1990. Since then, it has received the reputation of being one of the leading charities aiding those suffering from child poverty in Vietnam. Its main focus is on health and nutrition, in addition to providing assistance in the areas of education and livelihoods, child protection, disaster risk reduction and emergency response. The organization primarily operates by working in tandem with governmental agencies, schools and local networks to provide aid. In 2020, Save the Children was able to positively impact the lives of over 7 million children in Vietnam.

ChildFund

ChildFund partners with local organizations to support the education, health and long-term opportunities for ethnic minority children in Vietnam. When working with children aged 0-5, the program focuses on ensuring health, security and child-friendly learning corners in the home. The 6-14 age range centers on education and confidence building, with experiential learning training playing a key role. Programs for ages 15-24 are based on the principles of skillfulness and involvement and include participation in vocational training and securing employment. Through its sponsorship model, the program has benefited over 33,000 children and their families over the past 25 years.

Despite ongoing issues of childhood poverty, organizations such as Children of Vietnam, Save the Children and ChildFund are working to provide sustainable, community-based resources for those suffering from child poverty in Vietnam. As these initiatives continue to grow, the outlooks of impoverished children and families in Vietnam will grow alongside them.

– Nina Lehr
Photo: Flickr