At a glance: Viet Nam

Information a potent weapon in Viet Nam’s fight against bird flu

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/2007/Nettleton
An education campaign in Viet Nam is raising awareness about avian influenza, particularly in rural areas where backyard flocks often roam freely through human living spaces.

By Steve Nettleton

DAI YEN COMMUNE, Viet Nam, 9 January 2006 – Nguyen Thi Tuyet takes off her straw hat and farming clothes and fills a bowl with chicken feed. She tosses handfuls of seeds to the 100 chickens inside a pen next to her house. Tuyet worries that she might lose her chicken farm if avian influenza returns to her village.

Outbreaks in 2004 and 2005 led to the culling of more than 11,000 chickens in her commune alone, and more than 2 million across the province. Recent outbreaks in three southern provinces have renewed poultry farmers’ fears and concerns

Ms. Nguyen’s chickens were spared in the previous outbreaks, but the effect on the poultry market was disastrous. Prices plunged and she could hardly make a living.

“We are afraid of the return of another outbreak,” she said. “We think it is going to cause a lot of problems for us, especially in terms of economic loss.”

Funding from Japan

Poultry is a major industry in Viet Nam, where more than 250 million ducks, geese and chickens are being raised at any given time.

The government is encouraging the development of larger farms. But most of the country’s poultry farmers are like Ms. Nguyen, keeping small, backyard flocks that often roam freely through human living spaces.

Funded by a grant from the Japanese Government, UNICEF is working with the Vietnamese authorities to raise awareness in rural communities about how to prevent the spread of avian influenza among birds as well as its transmission to people.

Promoting safe hygiene

Large billboards in urban areas and on major roadways call for thorough cooking of chicken and proper hygiene. Public service announcements broadcast on national and local radio and television  urge poultry farmers to ensure their animals are vaccinated and kept in a separate space from humans, and to wash and disinfect themselves thoroughly after contact with poultry.

“Personal hygiene is very important, not only to prevent avian flu, but also other diseases,” said the Director of the Health Education Centre at Vietnam’s Ministry of Health, Nguyen Quang Thuan. “So we’ve been raising awareness about personal hygiene – especially hand-washing, which is one of the ways avian flu can be prevented.”

It is a message many poultry farmers here have been quick to accept. They know firsthand how bird flu can devastate lives and livelihoods.


 

 

Video

6 October 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Steve Nettleton reports on UNICEF efforts to educate Vietnamese communities about avian flu prevention.
 VIDEO  high | low

6 October 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Steve Nettleton reports on the ongoing efforts to deal with bird flu outbreaks in Viet Nam.
 VIDEO high | low

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