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At a glance: Viet Nam

Integrated approach helps Vietnamese children get the best start in life

© UNICEF Viet Nam/2005/Huong
Y-Ner carries her one-year-old daughter Y-Chau on her back while working in the fields.

By Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong

HANOI, 22 June 2005 – Twenty-nine-year-old Y-Ner lives in the Dac-Blo village of Kon Tum, one of the poorest provinces in Viet Nam’s central highlands. Despite many hardships, her three children are growing up healthy, happy and well-protected, thanks to the UNICEF-supported Integrated Early Childhood Development programme (IECD).

On the eve of its 30th anniversary of work in Viet Nam, UNICEF renews its commitment to the country’s children with programmes such as IECD. Aimed at giving children the best start in life, the Viet Nam IECD programme strives to bring clean drinking water, nutrition, healthcare, quality education and protection to all children during their first years.

“Investment in young children is one of the best investments one can make for the long-term development of every nation and its citizens,” explains Christian Salazar, Officer-in-charge for UNICEF’s Viet Nam office. “Intervening early also helps avoid future costly problems for society.”

Sharing experiences with soon-to-be mothers

Y-Ner is a member of the communication group in her village. Support for communication groups is part of UNICEF’s IECD programme.

© UNICEF Viet Nam/2005/Huong
At a village communication group meeting held monthly, Y-Ner (standing) shares her experiences as a mother with other women.

Each group includes women who are of child-bearing age, health workers, and the head of the village. Y-Ner’s group meets every month to share experiences and exchange information about caring for children and helping them to develop.

Y-Ner is very proud that her children are healthy. She enjoys sharing her knowledge with expectant mothers, and advises them on getting pre-natal check-ups at health centres, registering their newborns, breastfeeding them exclusively for the first six months, and having them fully immunized. With support from UNICEF, communication groups like hers have been established in 42 districts across Viet Nam.

“I am thankful to our village health worker for his help,” says Y-Ner. “He would always come to my house the night before the immunization date to remind us to bring our children to the health centre for their shots. He also helped to monitor their growth and advised us how to feed them in order to avoid malnourishment.”

Creating safe environments for learning and playing

Y-Ner’s eldest son A-Blum is nearly six years old. A-Blum enjoys going to kindergarten every day because he can meet and play with other children there. He loves doing morning exercises, singing and dancing with friends.

© UNICEF Viet Nam/2005/Huong
Y-Ner’s six-year-old son A-Blum enjoys learning and playing with friends at his kindergarten.

His teacher Hanh is among hundreds of kindergarten teachers who have participated in UNICEF-supported training programmes in subjects such as facilitating play, managing multi-aged classes and preventing child injuries. UNICEF has also provided teaching guides and bilingual materials for children like A-Blum, who represent minority ethnic groups.

Every six months, A-Blum and his classmates get a special visit from a health worker whom they call ‘Uncle Doctor.’ ‘Uncle Doctor’ listens to the children’s hearts and measures their heights and weights.

Health and safety conditions in Viet Nam’s kindergartens and day care centres are improving. Clean water and sanitation facilities have been provided to children in more than 130 day care centres.

A bright future ahead

Y-Ner takes her three-year-old son A-Khi and her one-year-old daughter Y-Chau with her every day when she tills the fields. “I will send A-Khi to kindergarten as soon as he turns four in a few months time. His brother really likes it, so I think A-Khi will like it too,” she says.

Y-Ner carries Y-Chau on her back using a simple cloth band. “I feel more comfortable if she is with me. I can breastfeed her whenever she is hungry, talk to her while I am working, and play with her when I have time. We like each other’s company,” she says, laughing.

In collaboration with the government of Viet Nam, UNICEF continues to increase awareness among local authorities, teachers and parents of ways to help children get the best start in life, as it celebrates 30 years of work in the country.



Related links

Press release: UNICEF celebrates 30 years of cooperation with the government of Viet Nam (1975-2005)


What's special about UNICEF's integrated approach to early childhood?

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Facts on children – early childhood

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