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UNICEF and Viet Nam celebrate 30 years of progress for children

HANOI, 23 June 2005 --  UNICEF gathered with Vietnamese government officials today to celebrate a 30-year nationwide partnership that has dramatically improved the health of women and children, assisted in halving poverty and increased access to education.

“Enormous progress has been made in improving the lives of Vietnamese children over the past three decades,” said Mr. Christian Salazar, Acting Representative of UNICEF Viet Nam, attending the commemorative ceremony held Wednesday at Hanoi’s historic Opera House. “UNICEF is very proud and grateful to have been a part of this and to have established such a strong and enduring relationship with the Government of Viet Nam.”

Among Viet Nam’s notable health achievements of the past 30 years have been the elimination of polio in 2000, the near-elimination of measles and maternal and neonatal tetanus, and an increase in birth registration from 72 per cent in 1999 to 94 percent in 2004.

Viet Nam has also made major gains in education during the past 30 years. The country has achieved very hight national enrolment rates of 95 per cent in primary schools, The government has set new targets, such as for all children to enroll in lower secondary school by 2010 and to achieve a pre-school enrollment rate of 95 per cent.

UNICEF worked in the former South Viet Nam from 1958 to 1975, but did not begin its first nationwide programme until the end of the war in 1975. When UNICEF opened its office in Room 105 of the Notal Hoa Binh in Hanoi, it was the first United Nations agency to establish contacts with Hanoi.

At that time, Viet Nam was emerging from decades of war. Hunger and poverty were widespread and medicine was in short supply. Schools and water supplies had been destroyed and infant mortality figures exceeded 100 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Since 1975, UNICEF’s work in Viet Nam has evolved from emergency and reconstruction assistance, to longer-term projects focused on education, health, nutrition and water and sanitation, as well as child protection, childhood injury prevention, HIV/AIDS and the fulfillment of child rights.

Despite the substantial progress of the past 30 years, the children of Viet Nam still face considerable challenges. Thirty percent of children under five are malnourished and only half of the country’s rural areas have access to safe water and sanitation. The very high rate of primary school enrolment masks pockets of great disparity such as among ethnic minorities, and disabled children. Viet Nam’s rapid social development has also led to new problems. There are now roughly 2.5 million children in need of special protection, including more than 150,000 orphans, 1.2 million children with disabilities, 23,000 child labourers and 263,000 children living with HIV positive parents.

“Ten years ago Viet Nam was opening up to the world as it embraced its new ‘doi moi’ (renovation) policies,” said UNICEF Deputy Director Rima Salah, who was UNICEF’s Viet Nam Representative from 1995 to 1998. “Today, these economic developments have heralded huge changes for the Vietnamese people, many positive changes, and some new difficulties. UNICEF remains committed to working with the Government of Viet Nam to ensure that the rights of all children are protected and pursued.”

Other former UNICEF representatives attending the celebrations were Mr. Tarique Farooqui, who was Representative from 1987-1992 and Mr. Anthony Bloomberg, who was Representative from 2002 to March 2005.  Ten UNICEF representatives have served in Viet Nam.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Jordan Ryan, also spoke at the ceremony. He highlighted the strength of the partnership between UNICEF and the rest of the United Nations Country Team and how this had developed into a committed relationship with the Government of Viet Nam.

“Congratulations to Viet Nam for its successes in improving the lives of its women and children and congratulations to UNICEF for its important role in contributing to these successes,” Ryan said.

Special presentations were given by Ms. Le Thanh Huyen, 13 years old, from Hanoi’s Green Bee Junior Reporter club, and Vu Duy Duc, 14 years old, who has just completed Grade 8 lower secondary school.

Joining in the celebrations were several hundred children, government officials and representatives of the international community in Viet Nam along with Vice-Prime Minister Mr. Pham Gia Khiem and Madame Le Thi Thu, Chairwoman of the Commission on Population, Family and Children.

Speaking at the ceremony, Madame Le Thi Thu, Minister and Chairperson of Viet Nam’s Commission for Population, Family and Children (CPFC) emphasized the long and productive cooperation between UNICEF and Viet Nam. “We have worked together on seven programmes of cooperation and all of them have contributed to Viet Nam’s development. We want to continue this positive cooperation with UNICEF and other international organizations so that the lives of all Vietnamese children continue to improve and to ensure that their rights are protected,” she said.

For further information, please contact:

Sue Spencer (Ms), Communication Section, UNICEF Viet Nam
Tel. 844 942 5706, ext 210 or sspencer@unicef.org

Trịnh Anh Tuấn (Mr), Communication Section, UNICEF Viet Nam
Tel. 844 942 5706, ext 234 or tatuan@unicef.org




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