New life brings new hope in Viet Nam
Simple measures are saving newborn lives.
It is estimated that 47 newborns die every day in Viet Nam. Most are from preventable causes.
Thirty years ago that number was more than twice as high. Much progress has been made and thousands of newborn lives have been saved as a result.
There is still far to go. In some areas, such as Lai Chau in the north west and Kon Tum in the centre of the country, the infant mortality rates are three times higher than the national average.
But there is hope: Simple interventions are helping to save newborn lives. Working with the local government, UNICEF is supporting skilled birth attendance to prevent and treat complications during pregnancy, delivery and birth; and to provide essential early newborn care, such as the early initiation of breastfeeding and kangaroo care for premature and low weight babies.
Here are some of the first newborns who have benefitted from such care – the faces of hope as we start this new decade.
The sun was shining on 1 January when baby Nguyễn Hoàng Sunny arrived in Tan Lap Commune in central Viet Nam. Translated from Vietnamese, her name means ‘The Little Sunshine,’ and she is the third daughter in her family.
“I had a hard time with Sunny compared to my first two children,” says her mother To Thoai Thuy Nu. “The doctor said that Sunny had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice, so it was difficult to give birth to her naturally. I went to the city hospital four times to give birth to Sunny… In the end, I was very happy that I could give birth naturally without any problems.”
Nu went for regular prenatal checks because of what she learned from her previous pregnancies. Now, she plans to join UNICEF-supported parenting classes to learn more about children’s brain development in the earliest years of life to help her children reach their full potential.
“I’m hoping that my baby grows up healthy and does well in school.”
A Ka Thanh was born at 8.00 AM on 1 January – the first baby of the decade born in Dak To Re commune, in central Viet Nam.
In consultation with the local health worker, Thanh's mother Y Duch had three prenatal checkups during her pregnancy. Like many mothers in the commune though, she chose to give birth at home.
“The health workers told me that I should give birth at the commune health centre or the provincial hospital to have a safe delivery, but I followed our Bana culture and gave birth at home like I did with my first two children. I delivered Thanh with the help of the village midwife,” said Y Duch.
“I’m hoping that my baby grows up healthy and does well in school,” she says, noting how she wants him to be fully vaccinated. “Thanh means ‘success’. I hope that when he grows up, he will be a successful man.”
Trinh Le Mai Anh was the first baby born in Kon Long Khong commune in central Viet Nam this year, and her mother Lê Thị Phương has hopes for her to build on this strong start. “The first letter of her name is ‘A’, so her name will always be the first in all lists of names. I hope she learns well and is always the top of everything, and is better than the boys!”
But Phương’s pregnancy wasn’t easy.
“I had foetal derangement from the third month of pregnancy. I didn’t do anything, just rested for five months. I worried a lot during that time,” she says. “I had regular health check-ups in the commune health centre and district hospital, thanks to UNICEF’s support. I was so happy when I gave birth at the district hospital.”
“Our baby girl is a gift from God to my family.”
“Our baby girl is a gift from God to my family,” beamed Sang, mother of little Dang Thi Bao Tran – a Vietnamese name that means ‘precious’ and ‘cherished.’
Born on the first day of the new decade in Tan Lap Commune in central Viet Nam, her parents’ hope is for her to grow up healthy. And she’s off to a good start. Safely delivered in hospital, Bao Tran was born by Caesarean section – a delivery that concluded a healthy pregnancy in which Sang received regular pre-natal check-ups at the city hospital and guidance from the village midwife throughout the nine months.
“I shed tears when I saw my wife in pain during birth. I held her hand all the time in hospital to comfort and encourage her. When I heard my son cry for the first time, I felt overjoyed to be a father,” says Ho, 27.
Named after his father in the hope that he will grow up to be as strong, little Hao was born naturally and safely in hospital on the first day of the year. Not all babies are as lucky. Fifty per cent of babies in Kon Tum province in central Viet Nam are born at home – as is tradition in Ho’s ethnic group.
“I chose to give birth in hospital because both me and my first child will be safer,” said Hao’s mother. “I am grateful for the care and counselling I received from the commune health workers and hospital staff throughout my pregnancy and during delivery.”
“My child was given the Hepatitis B vaccine right after the birth, and I was taught how to hold my baby, and how to breastfeed him,” she says. “I would love to know more, especially how to feed him well, and how to treat him when he is sick.”
Working with the government, UNICEF supports Viet Nam’s families to give their child the best start in life with a safe birth, good healthcare, advice on nutrition and sanitation, a quality education and a protective environment – all the things they need to not just survive, but thrive.
Discover more about UNICEF’s work in Viet Nam.