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Press Release

UNICEF Executive Director compliments Viet Nam on its commitment to children

Expresses continuing concern over malnutrition and human trafficking

17 February 2001: UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy today shared her reflections on the state of Vietnamese children on the final day of her visit to Viet Nam.

“Since my last trip to Viet Nam five years ago, the country has made impressive progress in a number of areas,” Ms. Bellamy stated. “This progress is a testament to the commitment the Government of Viet Nam has made to improving the lives of its children.”

“More children than ever are being immunised against infectious childhood diseases,” Ms. Bellamy noted. “Polio is now eradicated in Viet Nam, and vitamin A deficiency has been virtually eliminated.”

Ms. Bellamy also complemented Viet Nam on providing the vast majority of children with an opportunity to receive a primary education, and on the progress it has made on providing more children with access to clean drinking water.

“These accomplishments are commendable,” Ms. Bellamy said. “However, many Vietnamese children continue to be confronted with serious threats to their lives and wellbeing.”

“HIV/AIDS is on its way to becoming a major killer of Vietnamese children,” she noted. “If we fail to take aggressive action to confront this threat, it will undercut much of the progress that has been made in ensuring the survival of Viet Nam’s children and youth.

“In my meetings with government leaders this week I urged them to push for specific policies addressing the problem of HIV/AIDS among children and youth,” Ms. Bellamy said. “I also expressed UNICEF’s strong belief that people living with HIV/AIDS need to be loved, cared for, and protected from all forms of discrimination.”

Ms. Bellamy also expressed her concern over widespread malnutrition among Vietnamese children. “Approximately one third of all Vietnamese children continue to suffer from malnutrition, despite the fact that Viet Nam is the second largest exporter of rice in the world,” she stated. “We look forward to working with the Government to aggressively addressing this problem in the coming years.”

“UNICEF is also concerned about the large numbers of women and children who are being trafficked into China, Cambodia and other countries,” Ms. Bellamy added. “This form of modern day slavery is depriving children of their most basic humanity, and we must do everything in our power to fight to protect children from this heinous crime.”

UNICEF has worked closely with the Ministry of Justice and other relevant government ministries to revise regulations dealing with child trafficking. UNICEF continues to lobby the Government of Viet Nam and its neighbours to deal more aggressively with the issue of child trafficking, and to facilitate the repatriation of trafficking victims.

Ms. Bellamy emphasised that UNICEF and the Government of Viet Nam have enjoyed a very close and productive working relationship for many years, a relationship that has significantly enhanced the lives of Viet Nam’s children.

“Over the coming decade UNICEF looks forward to continuing its work with the Government to extend essential service coverage to all of Viet Nam’s children - especially poor children, children living in remote and mountainous areas, and marginalised groups of children such as street children, sexually exploited children, child abuse victims and child labourers.”

* * * * *

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Damien Personnaz, Communication Officer, UNICEF Hanoi, Tel. (84 4) 942 5424

Mohammad Jalloh, UNICEF Media, New York, Tel. (212) 326-7516