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At a glance: Viet Nam

Monthly immunization days save lives and build babies’ health

© UNICEF video
Luong Thi Chay brings her 4-month-old son to the monthly immunization days in Chieng Khoa. She is also enrolled in a nutrition class to learn about proper infant feeding.

By Steve Nettleton

CHIENG KHOA, Viet Nam, 1 February 2006 – It’s the monthly immunization day in Chieng Khoa, a small village in the mountains of north-western Viet Nam. Although it’s still early in the morning, numerous mothers clutching babies wait patiently in a queue in front of the health centre.

Some of these women have walked hours on foot to get here, carrying their infants. Others arrived by motorcycle after a bumpy ride up and down the mountain roads. All are here for the same reason: To make sure that their babies receive the right vaccinations, essential for survival and good health.

The monthly immunization day is an opportunity to provide a wide variety of health care services for the community. Babies less than one year old are vaccinated against tuberculosis, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus. They are also weighed and given vitamin A drops.

Pregnant women receive a regular check-up, along with tetanus vaccination. UNICEF supports the immunization day by providing vaccines and vitamin A supplements.

© UNICEF video
Do Thi Tuyen (centre), an assistant doctor at the Chieng Khoa Health Centre, teaches a class on nutrition.

Learning about nutrition

In remote villages like Chieng Khoa, a regular monthly routine of immunization days is an essential way to keep women and children healthy and improve their quality of life. With a population dominated by ethnic minorities – mainly Thais – this village has much higher maternal mortality rates than the rest of the country. To make matters worse, nearly 30 percent of children here are underweight.

In addition to immunization days, nutrition education is a major component of UNICEF’s work for child survival, growth and development. The organization supports nutrition classes for mothers in the area.

“People here don’t have a good understanding about proper nutrition,” says Do Thi Tuyen, an assistant doctor at the Chieng Khoa Health Centre. “They only think that if you feed your children they will grow up. We are now integrating nutrition education programmes with the local community. As a result, the awareness is rising. But we still have a long way to go.”

Luong Thi Chay, a mother of two, was worried that her four-month-old son was not getting proper nourishment. To learn how to feed her baby properly, she joined a nutrition class in her village. She also is a regular participant at the immunization days.

With improved knowledge and regular access to health care, more children in rural Viet Nam can hope to grow up healthier.

Eric Mullerbeck and Kun Li contributed to this story.




1 February 2006:
UNICEF Correspondent Steve Nettleton reports on how the organization is helping to keep mothers and babies healthy in rural Vietnam.

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