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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

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

Agriculture in Vietnam

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

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

Challenges

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

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

What Is Being Done

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

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

– Kayla Cammarota
Photo: Flickr

Fishermen Poverty in the South China Sea
The South China Sea represents more than just a geopolitical struggle; it is a hotspot for fishing. Beijing claims that its historic rights give it ownership inside the so-called Nine-Dash Line, covering around 80 percent of the South China Sea. These claims contradict maritime laws, among them The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and have received backlash from several Southeast Asian countries.

For example, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam all hold overlapping claims over the Spratlys Islands, a group of islands, archipelagos and reefs. Aggression from all sides and a lack of cooperation on fishing regulations have endangered the livelihoods of fishermen, who rely on the South China Sea for sustenance. Here are seven facts about fishermen poverty in the South China Sea:

7 Facts about Fishermen Poverty in the South China Sea

  1. The South China Sea fisheries constitute the economic lifeblood of claimant states. They are the home of upwards of 3,365 species of marine fish, and 55 percent of marine fishing vessels operate in the South China Sea. Moreover, approximately 12 percent of global fishing catches occur there. In addition to being a source of nutrition, the fisheries provide employment to at least 3.7 million people.

  2. Overfishing has depleted the fishing reserves of the South China Sea. A Stimson report released in December 2012 found that shallow reefs and shoals have been exploited to their limit. Relative to other regions of Earth, portions of the South China Sea are among the most highly affected marine ecosystems.

  3. Coastal development has further aggravated marine species. Mangroves, for example, occupy a mere 70 percent of their original land area in the South China Sea, and seagrass beds have shrunk to 50 percent of pre-industrial levels. Industrial pollutants, tourism and sediment runoff have endangered marine species, which use coastal habitats for spawning purposes. When these coastal habitats become depleted, fishermen venture beyond national limits, leading to confrontations at sea.

  4. Overexploitation of stocks has forced fishermen to turn to dangerous fishing techniques. In order to make up for economic losses, fishermen have used explosives and cyanide to boost yields. Some have resorted to blast fishing, in which dynamite is used to kills schools of fish. This allows for easy collection, but it seriously harms the coral reefs and seabed in the process. In Indonesia alone, fishing explosives have cost up to $3.8 billion between 1980 and 2000.

  5. Fishermen poverty is a common type of poverty in countries surrounding the South China Sea. 80 percent of Indonesian fishing households earn incomes below the country’s poverty line. In the Tay Ninh province of Vietnam, people working in the fisheries sector made up 88 percent of very low-income households in 1999. Moreover, poverty is more prevalent in Filipino fishing households than in the average Filipino household.

  6. Legal uncertainty about the status of artificial islands and false claims in the South China Sea have exacerbated tensions between fishermen from different Southeast Asian nations. Maritime border disputes have prevented countries from establishing a framework for cooperation. With no regulation of fishing activities, illegal and unreported fishing has gone rampant in the South China Sea.

  7. Border disputes have put the lives of Southeast Asian fishermen in danger. CNN reported that, in 2015, Chinese vessels attacked 200 Ly Son (Vietnamese) fishermen and 17 fishing boats. Starting in 2005 and lasting seven years, Chinese government ships kidnapped Vietnamese fishers for ransom near The Paracel Islands. Romel Cejuela, a Filipino fisherman, explained that the Chinese Coast Guard personnel “board our boats, look at where we store the fish and take the best ones.” China is not the sole perpetrator of these acts of violence and robbery. In 2017, Reuters article Indonesia’s navy shot four Vietnamese fishermen on a fishing boat in the South China Sea.

On June 27, 2018, representatives from the member states of The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China met in Changsha to negotiate a “code of conduct” for vessels traveling through the South China Sea. For the first time, China and ASEAN reached a consensus on a set of maritime rules and planned to hold joint maritime exercises in the future. While some critics dismiss the meeting as a Chinese ploy, agreements like this one are necessary for fishermen whose lives depend on stability in the South China Sea.

To alleviate fishermen poverty and create an environment more conducive to cooperation and sustainable fishing, it is essential that Southeast Asian nations delineate territorial claims and abide by a rules-based international order. With the negotiations currently underway, this may occur sooner than originally anticipated.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Vietnam
Over the last three decades, poverty in Vietnam has been reduced by 75 percent. While there is no question that this progress is a great success for Vietnam, there are still issues associated with this poverty that widely persist today.

According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), racial disparities, notably among Vietnamese minorities, continue to exist. New kinds of poverty are starting to form. While success has been seen, it should not serve as a foundation on which Vietnam can rest and avoid its other systemic issues. Rather, this development should act as an indicator for the great potential that exists when a country actively seeks to address its internal issues.

With the Vietnamese poverty line resting at about $2 per day, many people residing above this threshold face the possibility of economic, social and political fluctuations that could quickly force them back into a state of poverty.

Although “poverty” has been significantly reduced, there is still great necessity to commit to sustainable and continued development for the Vietnamese people and their economic stature. In addition, the benefits of poverty reduction have been skewed among racial regional and gendered lines.

Where Vietnam Poverty Exists

Nearly half of the Vietnamese minorities still live in poverty, and those in mountainous regions live in additional fear of natural disasters and tough living conditions. While poverty reduction in urban areas is evident, the state of rural populations is consistently unnoticed and unaddressed.

However, one does not need to look to rural areas to see the alleviation disparity surrounding the poverty in Vietnam. Gender still serves as an indicator of poverty levels, with women suffering some of the largest economic injustices. Pay gaps, lack of female leadership roles and poor conditions for existing female sectors are just a few of the sources that fuel gendered poverty levels in Vietnam as a whole.

In combating poverty in Vietnam, the country has implemented programs to promote the empowerment of women and has instituted comprehensive education opportunities. By increasing the level of education throughout the country, Vietnam hopes to create a lasting solution rather than a temporary fix to national poverty. Along with this, creating new images for women in the workplace aims to limit the gender gap and thus provide universal equality for all citizens. Through these policies, among others, poverty in Vietnam is recognized as an important area of concern and is being addressed in new ways for future national health.

Ryan Montbleau

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Vietnam
Poverty in Vietnam still exists, but the country is a great success story. Since the beginning of political and economic reforms in 1986, Vietnam has transformed from being one of the poorest countries in the world to a lower middle-income nation. Per capita income grew from below $100 at the start of the reforms, to $1,130 by 2010. According to the World Bank, the proportion of the population in poverty has fallen from 58% in 1993 to 14.5% in 2008. Vietnam has so far attained five of its ten Millennium Development Goal targets and is working towards achieving two more by 2015.

The country has also made incredible progress in education. Primary and secondary school enrollments for the poor have reached more than 90 and 70% respectively. Rising levels of education and diversification into off-farm activities, such as working in factories, construction sites, or domestic housework have also contributed to poverty reduction.

Although Vietnam has made great progress, the country still faces challenges when tackling further poverty reduction. The prevailing poverty of the ethnic minority in Vietnam is of particular concern. Although Vietnam’s 53 ethnic minority groups make up less than 15% of the population, they accounted for almost 50% of the poor in 2010. Many continue to reside in less productive and more isolated upland regions of Vietnam.

Rising inequality in income and opportunities has also accompanied the recent economic growth and transformation. Some of the poor have limited access to high quality education, health services, and job opportunities, particularly those living in small cities or rural areas.

The Socio-Economic Development Strategy (SEDS) 2011-2012 focuses on structural reforms, social equity, environmental sustainability, and arising issues of macroeconomic stability. It defines three “breakthrough areas”: promoting human resources skills development (particularly for modern industry and innovation), improving market institutions, and infrastructure development. Vietnam aims to lay the foundations for a modern, industrialized society by 2020.

Maintaining the current pace of economic growth in Vietnam is crucial to continued poverty reduction. However, this growth must come with equity and will have to include all regions and groups in the country to become a modern, industrialized society.

– Ali Warlich 

Sources: World Bank News, World Bank Data
Photo: Asia News