Full remarks by UNICEF Representative Rana Flowers on the occasion of Month of Action for Children in Viet Nam
Distinguished Prime Minister, Mr. Pham Minh Chinh,
MOLISA Minister Mr. Dao Ngoc Dung
Leaders and representative of the State, National Assembly, government ministries, mass, & social organisations, and international organisations,
Girls and Boys,
I am delighted and honoured to join you for this launch of the 2022 Month of Action for Children.
Our gathering today could not have come at a better moment, after two long years of battling COVID-19. My goal – the goal of all here today is to get your childhood back on track, to address your physical, cognitive and mental wellbeing. And in that spirit – with sport as powerful builder of competencies and skill – let me jump to recognising Viet Nam’s spectacular performances at the SEAGAMES – with huge congratulations to the women’s and men’s football teams.
While Viet Nam has done a tremendous job of protecting and vaccinating its population, the pandemic has exacerbated threats to children and created new risks to their lives and futures.
As Viet Nam springs back to life we must take action on all issues affecting children: paying special attention to the most vulnerable, to all who have had their development stalled for two years.
I feel responsible for you all, to do whatever I can, whatever UNICEF can urgently address the lost brain development from poor nutrition, the lost learning from closed schools, the missed vaccinations, and deepening poverty and the silent suffering from increased stress, loneliness and all too often, violence and abuse.
Children – this month is about you, about how we join hands to support you, to deliver practical, achievable changes that can make a world of difference for children and “Get Childhood Back on Track”.
Let me make four key recommendations.
First, did you know there are around 230,000 children under-5 who suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) annually – 90% get no treatment.
Did you know this can be addressed?
There are available therapeutic products that would end this suffering for children in Viet Nam. What could Viet Nam do differently?
Two things: include therapeutic products for severely malnourished children in the revision of the Law on Medical Examination and Treatment – and second, ensure health insurance covers the products until the children reach 6 years of age.
Second, invest more and better in social assistance, especially for families with children.
International evidence is compelling - social protection reduces income inequality, keeps children in school and improves their health, lifts people out of poverty and generates positive returns to overall economic growth.
Viet Nam could introduce a universal child grant for all children under six.
It is affordable - costing only 2 per cent of the country’s GDP – and will have major impacts on the most vulnerable[i] and stop the intergenerational cycles of poverty.
Third, we must stop the violence and abuse of children.
The pandemic has only worsened the already too high numbers of women and children suffering violence by someone known and trusted to them. It’s a complex area – needing trained social workers, not barely paid volunteers or those with a few weeks training.
Viet Nam needs urgently to professionalize social work, we need a digital case management system Primero and MOLISA needs additional budget and to prioritize a budget line dedicated to the employment of professional social workers in Viet Nam.
Fourth, VN has such incredible potential to be the leading educator, the leading generator in this region of smart, workplace ready graduates.
But to get there, it’s not just about getting back to normal – it is about investing in change.
Increasing the investments for digital learning, skills for employability and skills to address mental wellbeing.
The pandemic has pushed teachers and children out of the system. Our studies indicate increases in school dropouts, child labour and high rates of mental health challenges. Innovation within education is both necessary and possible.
Now is the time to invest in an education system that prepares the next generation so that all children, from the youngest ages and those of ethnic groups, can fully develop their skills and capacities and contribute to Viet Nam’s recovery.
UNICEF stands together with the Government, partner organisations, and the people of Viet Nam to achieve these and other concrete actions for realising the rights of every child.
I would like to express my appreciation for the strong commitment and leadership of the government of Viet Nam evidenced by the presence of your Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and the MOLISA Minister Dao Ngoc Dung today.
I call on each of us here today - adults and children alike – to join hands together and take strong and decisive actions for every child in Viet Nam, to get childhood back on track for all!
I wish you all good health. Thank you.
[i] UNDP (2021). Rapid assessment of design and implementation of Government's 2nd support package for the affected by Covid-19. Viet Nam’s 2nd social assistance package to respond to COVID-19 proved to be insufficient, too conservative at 0.4 per cent of the GDP compared to other countries in the region who spent about 5 per cent of annual GDP
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about COVID-19, visit https://www.unicef.org/vietnam/covid-19
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/vietnam