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UNICEF Executive Director Visits Viet Nam

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. VenemanHA NOI/GENEVA/NEW YORK May 8, 2007 -  UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman arrived in Ha Noi today for her first official visit since assuming leadership of UNICEF.

Viet Nam is likely to be one of the countries to reach nearly all the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets, some of them well ahead of the 2015 deadline.  The country is on track to achieve MDG 1 (eradicating extreme poverty and hunger), MDG 2 (achieving universal primary eduation), (MDG 3 (gender equality) and MDG 7 (environmental sustainability).  In addition, Viet Nam achieved dramatic reductions in under five mortality rates (dropped from 53 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 19 in 2005), infant mortality rates (dropped from 38 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 16  in 2005),  improved high primary school enrolment and completion rates (94 per cent in 2004), and enhanced access to clean water.  Viet Nam’s recent commitment to the “One UN Initiative”, which aims at delivering a more effective UN with greater system-wide coherence, will result in better programmes for children. 

“Viet Nam has demonstrated tremendous leadership in achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” said Veneman.   “This is good news for the children of Viet Nam.”  

While Viet Nam generally is doing well in equitable development and disparity reduction, remote areas still remain a challenge.  In these parts of the country, where the ethnic minorities are concentrated, the rural poor do not proportionally share in the country’s impressive economic and social progress. Despite reducing national poverty rates from 58% in 1990 to 19.5% in 2004, ethnic minority poverty levels remain close to 70%. About a quarter of all children under the age of five in Viet Nam are underweight, but this number is as high as 40% among ethnic minorities.  More boys and girls from ethnic minority groups lack sufficient water and sanitation facilities, drop out of school earlier, and suffer from preventable diseases and diarrhoea.  Furthermore, within ethnic minorities infant mortality rates are generally higher, child malnutrition rates vary from 14% in Hanoi to 36% in Kon Tum in Central Highlands. Maternal mortality rates are up to four times higher in remote ethnic minority areas. Access to clean water and sanitation respectively for the top 12 provinces was 77% and 75%, but 28% and 13% in the bottom 12, made up primarily of remote and mountainous provinces. The number of children in need of special protection in Viet Nam is on the increase and currently reported at 2.6 million children. This figure includes 1.2 million children with disabilities; 1.2 million children living below the poverty line; 283,697 children affected by HIV/AIDS; 143,000 orphans; 126,309 children without primary care givers; 45,000 working children; 16,000 street children; 5,500 children who misused drugs and 700 sexually abused children. 

Despite the significant progress achieved in Viet Nam, there are still children who lack even basic sanitation, water, nutrition, quality healthcare and education.  At the same time issues such as HIV and protecting children from injury and harm are increasingly important. 

Background information 
Ms. Veneman’s visit was hosted by the Minister-Chairwoman of the Viet Nam Commission for Population, Family and Children, Mme Le Thi Thu.  During her stay she met with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Van Bang, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment Cao Viet Sinh, and visited Phap Van Pagoda to see its faith-based work with people living with HIV.

About UNICEF
UNICEF works on the ground in over 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

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