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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

us and vietnam relations
The U.S. and Vietnam relations have experienced many changes over time. In 1995, the two nations normalized the alliance and since then, the partnership has become stronger. In June of 2020, Florida representative Ted Yoho introduced a resolution to the House, H. Res. 1018, to recognize the 25 years of normalized relations between the nations. It reaffirms the relationship and expresses a desire for the U.S. to continue its successful partnership with Vietnam.

The U.S. and Vietnam have established strong economic relations during these 25 years as the U.S. has advocated for economic growth within the country. In 2000, for instance, the nations agreed on a bilateral trade agreement that benefits both nations. Also, in recent years, U.S. investment has spiked in Vietnam. Throughout the nations’ partnership, Vietnam has become a growing economic power with an unemployment rate of only 2.2% in 2017. Furthermore, just 8% of its population lives below the poverty line. As noted in the resolution, the U.S. encourages Vietnam’s continued growth in leadership, stability and prosperity.

House Resolution 1018

On June 24, 2020, Representative Yoho introduced H. Res. 1018 to the U.S. House of Representatives. Less than a month later, the resolution moved to the Foreign Affairs Committee before going to the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation.

A Congressional resolution is different from a Congressional bill as it holds no legal obligation. Rather, it is a reflection on the widespread attitude of one of the Congressional institutions. House Resolution 1018 marks 25 years of normalized U.S. and Vietnam relations, celebrates the success that occurred during those years and looks forward to future relations.

More specifically, through H. Res. 1018, the U.S. encourages Vietnam’s decision to take on more global leadership in the U.N. Security Council and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It also encourages and celebrates the stability of the nation, reaffirming the importance of U.S. and Vietnam relations. The stability of Vietnam is beneficial for the U.S. because it lowers concerns over national security and allows for a complete sense of closure around the Vietnam War as the U.S. accounts for its military.

US and Vietnam Relations Moving Forward

In the future, the nations look to continue their normalized relations because it is a mutually beneficial partnership. As noted in the resolution, the U.S. aims to spread its values to Vietnam, continuing its “strong support for human rights and democratic values.” As these are major values of the U.S. government, it is helpful for the nation to spread them to other countries. H. Res. 1018 puts a large emphasis on this area of U.S. and Vietnam relations — signaling that it will be a significant part of the nation’s relations moving forward.

According to the resolution, human rights and democratic values contribute to advances in poverty reduction. Moving forward, much of the focus on U.S. and Vietnam relations emphasizes economic conditions. For example, the U.S. previously gave humanitarian aid to Vietnam through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). With the hope for increasing economic prosperity in the resolution, the nations are looking towards further reducing poverty through future reduction efforts.

House Resolution 1018 aims to continue the peaceful U.S. and Vietnam relations through expanding upon many of the nation’s established successes. This resolution motivates the Vietnam government to continue working with the U.S. to ensure economic success and stability.

Erica Burns
Photo: Flickr

12 Shocking Facts About Hunger in the Philippines
The Philippines is an archipelagic country of more than 7,000 islands located in Southeast Asia in the Pacific Ocean. Hunger is a very serious problem in the Philippines, affecting a large percentage of the population and causing many serious health concerns. Here are 12 shocking facts about hunger in the Philippines.

12 Shocking Facts About Hunger in the Philippines

  1. More than 33 percent of Filipino children suffer from malnutrition due to hunger problems in the Philippines. The problems with hunger and resulting malnutrition have long-term negative effects on children’s health.
  2. Out of the countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines has one of the highest hunger severities. The only country facing a worse hunger situation in the ASEAN is Indonesia.
  3. The most recent Global Hunger Index (GHI) calculated that the Philippines ranks 69 out of 113 countries with a GHI of 20.2. Factors such as undernourishment and health statistics such as weight and mortality rates, and particularly with children, determine the GHI for a country. The higher the GHI value, the more serious the hunger situation is. A GHI value of zero indicates no undernourishment in the population. The Philippines’ high ranking displays the country’s serious struggles with hunger.
  4. With a GHI of 20.2, the Philippines has one of the most serious scores on the GHI scale. However, this score does not place the country into an alarming category. This shows that while the situation is serious, it is not unsalvageable.
  5. There are approximately 520 million malnourished people in the world. The Philippines has amongst the highest number of citizens suffering from malnourishment. The Asian region, in general, has an extremely high malnourishment rate, which includes the islands of the Philippines.
  6. During recent years, effective results against malnourishment in the Philippines have gone down. The high rate and stagnant poverty make it difficult to find positive outcomes for this problem.
  7. High rates of hunger and malnourishment in the Philippines are primarily due to high food costs and a large low-income population. Additionally, the government lacks focus on addressing the problems associated with hunger, such as regional agricultural laws. The Philippines has passed some bills to reduce the hunger problem including the Philippine Food Fortification Act of 2000. This law mandates “fortifying with essential micronutrients staple food items like rice, flour, oil, and sugar.”
  8. The current strategy for addressing malnutrition in the Philippines is the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN). This initiative has promoted many recent laws and bills. These laws address solving the malnutrition problem in the Philippines on specific levels or issues such as aid and security to small businesses, farmers and fishermen.
  9. The Duterte administration that currently runs the Philippines garnered an increase in foreign investments of 43.5 percent in 2018. While this brings in more money for the Philippines, a significant proportion goes toward building skyscrapers and big business centers, rather than providing methods to increase the sustainable food supply for the poor. A shift toward fixing hunger needs to become the primary focus in order to begin solving the hunger and health problems of the population.
  10. The organization Rise Against Hunger has been fighting hunger in the Philippines since 2011. Rise Against Hunger coordinates the distribution of food and aid to the most susceptible regions around the world. Rise Against Hunger hopes to end hunger in the Philippines and other countries by 2030.
  11. Feed the Children is another organization that strives to improve the lives of Filipino citizens since 1984. Feed the Children hopes to meet the immediate and long-term needs of children and their families. One of its main focuses is providing individuals with food, nutrition and clean water. It has been able to reach approximately 38 communities.
  12. Action Against Hunger has also worked in the Philippines since 2000 with a focus on humanitarian needs. It specifically looks at needs stemming from physical and emotional issues resulting from natural disasters and their consequences on family and living. In 2018, it was able to help 302,014 people with their programs of nutrition and health, food security and water sanitation.

This concludes the 12 shocking facts about hunger in the Philippines. The country has made small improvements, but there is still a long way to go. Many organizations are doing impactful work to bring real change to the Philippines. However, there are other ways to help, such as contacting congressional leaders or making a donation to one of the organizations mentioned.

Haley Saffren
Photo: Flickr

Addressing Mental Health Disorders in Asia
We all face stress and mental anguish; these emotions are experienced by both the rich and the poor. The only difference is the rich tend to possess the means for coping and addressing mental health disorders. People who experience mental illness often remain adrift in social stigma and thus excluded from revenue-generating incomes. This vicious cycle — Poverty -> Social Causation -> Mental Illness -> Social Drift — also excludes these people from access to healthcare.

How Does Stress Lead to Mental Disorders?

But biologically speaking, how exactly does stress lead to mental disorders? Constantly worrying over where to find food or a place to sleep results in a heightened production of stress hormones called cortisol.

High levels of cortisol for extended periods can affect the brain down to the genetic level. It can increase the level of neural connections of the amygdala, or the “fear center.” This increase will then inhibit neural connections of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is associated with learning and memory.

The majority of this mental disorder is experienced in developing nations. These are the same nations with the widest gap of healthcare inequity, and the ones most unequipped to properly address physiological needs, let alone mental health disorders.

The Stress of Poverty

Many of the issues underlying depression — such as violence, unemployment, crime, inadequate housing, lack of education and poor sanitation — all stem from the stress of poverty.

Too much cortisol can lead to the loss of synaptic connections between brain cells, and fewer brain cells created in the hippocampus. This deficit will cause the brain to actually shrink in size, specifically in the prefrontal cortex — the region of the brain that allows for control of behaviors such as judgment and social interaction.

The Destigmatization of Mental Disorders

In Asian cultures, if a person is suffering from a mental disorder, his or her community will pretend like it never happened, since the impact is not outwardly apparent. However, just because it’s not outwardly apparent, that doesn’t mean ignoring the disorder will make it go away. The reason Asian communities cover up a sufferer’s condition largely stems from shame or embarrassment. There is also widespread belief that mental disorders are a divine punishment in retribution for a person’s past sins or crimes.

The 10-member nations of ASEAN have outlined their 2025 Socio-Cultural Blueprint that aims to raise mental health as one of the health priorities under the ASEAN Post 2015 Health Development Agenda for 2016-2020. This prioritization would mean integrating mental health into each of the national health systems, and coordinating between facilities, local organizations and NGOs for spreading awareness and empowerment.

The power of possessing a positive or negative outlook is more powerful than one might think; people with positive emotions can live longer and more fulfilling lives. Before we can harness the powers of emotions for improved physical health, we must first invest in better understanding and addressing mental health disorders. Once this is accomplished, we will then have made remarkable strides and come a long way from stigma and dehumanization.

– Awad Bin-Jawed

Photo: Flickr

mynamar monkeys
Myanmar makes strides towards reclaiming the title of being the primary source of rice exports, so named the “Asian Rice Bowl,” by doubling its rice production and export.

In fact, Myanmar aims to ship 2.5 million metric tons of rice between 2014-2015 with a targeted increase of 4.8 million tons between the years 2019-2020. In comparison, Myanmar shipped approximately 690,000 tons last year, ranking 9th in the world.

Among Myanmar’s competitors are its neighboring countries: Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. In its favor, Myanmar holds vast arable land, a large water supply and labor force, as well as low production costs.

Myanmar’s primary beneficiaries include Russia, as well as a number of other European and African countries. Half of Myanmar’s rice shipment goes towards its largest shipper: China.

However, a key hindrance to Myanmar’s growth concerns the remnants of its past military regime. Myanmar was the largest exporter of rice between 1961-1963.

More importantly, Myanmar’s prime deterrent in reestablishing itself as a large rice exporter is its infrastructure. With almost five decades run by a military junta, Myanmar has since seen little development in mechanization, basic electricity, telephone networks, and facilities such as governmental buildings are severely lacking in computers. From processing and shipment to transport, Myanmar is also lacking in the quality of its ports.

As the nation shrugs off 49 years of dictatorship rule, Myanmar is ready to show the world, particularly foreign investors, that the rules will change. In 2010, pro-democracy and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was released. Since then, many more political prisoners have been released. Political parties formed and participated in parliamentary elections in 2012 and in the same year, privately owned newspapers were allowed into the country.

Results have come about. Previous economic sanctions by the United States and the European Union have been lifted. The Asian Development Bank, in a bid to jump start the fledgling regime’s economic and social institutions, granted loans to Myanmar. Furthermore, Myanmar recently regained its position in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Despite a history of human rights abuses and ethnic and religious conflicts occurring, Myanmar is implementing necessary changes, starting with rice.

In regards to its citizens, Myanmar’s working sector is heavily tied to the rice industry in which an estimated 70% of the population partakes. Additionally, 13% of Myanmar’s gross domestic product is in the rice industry.

In order to truly be the Asian Rice Bowl, Myanmar must continue to cultivate and foster its existing industry towards creating a surplus of opportunity for its citizens.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: BBC: Increase in Rice Exports, BBC: Reforms in Burma, Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters: Analysis, Thomson Reuters: ASEAN Chair
Photo: Giphy.com