Sir Roger Moore visit 2003
A portrait of Sir Roger Moore while visiting Viet Nam
ONLINE MAGAZINE CLIPPING
Sir Roger Moore visits Viet Nam for First Time – October 2003
While most of the children were not that familiar with the exploits of James Bond 007, (their parents were!) they knew Sir Roger was a famous Hollywood actor and they knew all about his work for UNICEF. Today, the school’s principal, Mr Nguyen Duc Hao and his pupils were showing the ambassador how UNICEF had provided safe water and clean toilets for the school and how it was also promoting safety awareness amongst teachers and students.
Roger Moore was visiting Viet Nam to see first hand, two crucial programmes – water and environmental sanitation and childhood injury prevention. In rural Viet Nam, only fifty per cent of people have access to clean water and less than one third (30%) have adequate sanitation. UNICEF is working directly with schools and local communities to redress this problem. While poor water quality contributes to diarrhoeal and parasitic diseases, injury is now the leading cause of death in children in Viet Nam. Every year, nearly 300,000 children die from injury or around eighty every day. The leading cause of deaths is drowning followed by traffic accidents. Burns, falls and stepping on land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) are also major causes of death and injury. UNICEF and the Government of Viet Nam have embarked on the first childhood injury prevention programme in the world.
In a neat and brightly decorated class room, forty Grade 5 students sat at their wooden desks and prepared for their first lesson on safety and injury prevention. Under the watchful eye of Ho Chi Minh, known respectfully as ‘Uncle Ho” and whose photo adorns every classroom in the country, teacher Mr Dang Nam, quizzed the students about safety on the water. Most of the children live on or near the water and their parents are fishermen. “Hands up, who knows how to swim? asked Roger. Only 10 hands were raised. “Who’s frightened of the water?” Nearly all nodded.
Just two kilometres along a narrow lane bordered by lush rice paddies, was a small, satellite school of the Ha Trung primary school. It was late afternoon and the two classes were preparing to go home. Some of the children had to walk or cycle eight kilometres to reach their home. Both classes were full of children just six years old and who had just commenced school. UNICEF had installed a new water and toilet system and the young pupils already knew about the importance of using it – in spite of not knowing which was the girls entrance and which was the boys entrance as they could not yet read! Many children are now saying to their families that they prefer to use the toilet at school rather than what’s available at home!
On day two of the visit, Roger and his wife traveled from Hue, the former imperial and political capital of Viet Nam to Quang Tri province. Quang Tri province is located along the old dividing line between North and South Viet Nam and experienced some of the bloodiest battles and heaviest fighting during the Viet Nam War. By the end of the war, only 11 out of 3,500 villages were intact and Quang Tri continues to suffer the lingering effects of the war. It is one of the poorest provinces in the country where twenty-eight per cent of the population live below the poverty line of $US 1 a day, thirty-six percent of children under 5 are underweight and only forty-three percent of people have access to clean water. Land mines and UXOs still dot the countryside and remain a lethal threat to children.
Warmly greeted by the Quang Tri Provincial Peoples Committee, the UNICEF ambassador was escorted to Trieu Phoc kindergarten, where twenty tiny children were taking an afternoon nap after their lunch. The children at the kindergarten are part of UNICEF’s Integrated Early Childhood Development Project where holistic child care is promoted. Good health care, healthy nutrition, safe water and proper sanitation and attention to early learning are all encouraged. Outside, the yard is properly fenced so children can play safely.
We next traveled to the home of 25 year old Vo Thi Kim Chi, mother of two year old Nguyen Thi Thao Vi. Chi’s husband is a farmer and she told us that just last week, he had found unexploded ordnance in a nearby field. All he could do was to let the authorities know about its location and hope it would soon be safely removed. Chi and her husband are making their home ‘child-safe’ with the help of local health workers and UNICEF support. Electrical fittings are placed out of reach of young children’s hands as are bottles of pesticides and poisons. The kitchen fire is cordoned off and the yard around the house is safely fenced. The child safe home project currently covers more than 6,500 households and benefits around 11,000 children under 10 years of age.
After two days in the provinces, Sir Roger and his wife returned to Hanoi before flying onto to Hong Kong and then on to Canada for major UNICEF fund raising events. At a press conference for local and international media, Roger Moore summed up his visit – “I don’t like statistics but they are often necessary to get a message across – when two thirds of rural Vietnamese don’t have adequate sanitation and eighty children are dying every day from preventable injuries, something must be done. I will go away from Viet Nam rich in the memories of smiling faces and the warmth of the people, in spite of the adversity still faced by many of them.”