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Hanoi, 23 June 2005 - A special ceremony in Hanoi’s historic Opera House, has been held today to celebrate 30 years of cooperation between UNICEF and the Government of Viet Nam.

“Today, is a very special day for UNICEF, as we celebrate with leaders, children and  colleagues, our 30th anniversary in Viet Nam,” said Mr Christian Salazar, Acting Representative of UNICEF Viet Nam. “Enormous progress has been made in improving the lives of Vietnamese children over the past three decades. We at UNICEF are very proud and grateful that we have been able to play an important role in changing the lives of several generations of women and children in Viet Nam and at the same time establish a strong and enduring relationship with the Government of Viet Nam.”

Thirty years ago, Viet Nam was emerging from decades of war. Hunger and poverty were widespread. There were shortages of medicines. Schools and water supplies had been destroyed and infant mortality figures were greater than 100 per 1,000 live births. When UNICEF opened its office in Room 105 of the Hotel Hoa Binh in Hanoi, under the stewardship of Dr Francois Remy, it was the first United Nations agency to establish contacts with Hanoi. Working closely with the Government, education, infant welfare and public health services were identified as the first priorities of UNICEF’s support.

From 1958 to 1975, UNICEF had been working in the former South Viet Nam, where its work focused on maternal and child health, communicable disease control, nutrition, health education and building classrooms and training teachers. With the end of the war and the unification of the north and the south, UNICEF began its first nationwide programme of cooperation with the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.

Since 1975, UNICEF’s work in Viet Nam has evolved from emergency and reconstruction assistance, to longer term development planning focusing on education, health and nutrition and water and sanitation through to more recent attention on child protection, childhood injury prevention, HIV/AIDS and the fulfilment of child rights. Ten UNICEF representatives have served in Viet Nam.

UNICEF Deputy Director and former UNICEF Viet Nam Representative (1995-1998), Ms Rima Salah, was a special keynote speaker at the Hanoi Opera House event.

“Ten years ago, when I arrived to head the UNICEF office, Viet Nam was opening up to the world as it embraced its new ‘doi moi’ (renovation) policies. Today, these economic developments have heralded huge changes for the Vietnamese people. Poverty has been halved, more and more children are attending primary school and most have been immunized. Yet challenges remain as socio-economic progress leads to problems such as
increased disparities and problems associated with social dislocation, - homelessness, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, trafficking.  On this important anniversary, I wish to thank our Vietnamese colleagues for their support and cooperation and to emphasise that UNICEF remains committed to working with the Government of Viet Nam to ensure that the rights of all children are protected and pursued,” said Ms Salah.

Speaking at the ceremony, Madame Le Thi Thu, Minister and Chairperson of Viet Nam’s Commission for Population, Family and Children (CPFC) emphasised the long and productive  relationship between UNICEF and Viet Nam. “UNICEF and Viet Nam has had seven programmes of cooperation and these have all contributed to the development of Viet Nam. 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 their rights are respected,” she said.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr Jordan Ryan, also spoke at the ceremony and 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,” Jordan 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 former UNICEF representatives, Mr Tarique Farooqui, who was Representative from 1987-1992 and Mr Anthony Bloomberg, who was Representative from 2002 to March 2005.

UNICEF is currently finalizing its next program of cooperation with the Government for the period 2006-2010.  UNICEF will continue to provide its traditional support to basic services, such as health and nutrition, water and sanitation and education. However, child protection and childhood injury prevention, already cornerstones of UNICEF’s programming will continue to increase in focus and importance. Furthermore there will be special attention to children from ethnic minorities and adolescents; increasing attention to rising social disparities and improved monitoring of child rights. Together with other United Nations agencies, UNICEF will assist Viet Nam to address the social implications of the World Trade Accession (WTO) through improved social policies and social safety nets.

The programme, drawing on its strong relationship with the Government, will continue to implement UNICEF’s mandate to support the fulfilment of child rights and women’s rights in Viet Nam in the next decade and beyond.


For further information or interview, please contact

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

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



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