Save the Children launch project to support vulnerable communities to mitigate the impact of disasters

Save the Children and  Prudential Vietnam yesterday launched a programme in partnership to support communities in disaster-affected areas of Dien Bien, Hai Phong and Tien Giang. This three- year programme aims to increase the disaster preparedness and resilience of 6,000 vulnerable children and 30,000 community members.

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The Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Vietnam project aims to improve the safety of 12 schools, reducing the risk and impacts of disasters, through training for teachers and children on disaster preparedness and methods to reduce the consequences of disasters. The project will also support communities to organise disaster prevention drills and develop plans for better resilience, as well as advocating for the use of risk reduction education in communities and schools.

The project is funded by Prudence Foundation and implemented by Save the Children in coordination with the Ministry of Education and provincial centres for flood and storm control from 2015 to 2017.

Every year, two million people are estimated to be affected by the frequent storms and typhoons that hit Vietnam. The majority of them are children who are living in high risk areas. In 2013, the country was hit by 13 storms including two devastating typhoons: Nari and Wutip which caused the death of 87 people and an estimated US$275 million of damages.

Wilf Blackburn, CEO of Prudential Vietnam said: “Prudential Vietnam’s mission is to touch and enhance every Vietnamese household. As a leading provider of insurance, reducing and mitigating the impact of risk is of utmost importance to our business. CSR is an effective way for us to reach out to as many people as possible and children are always one of Prudential Vietnam’s priorities. They are the future of any country, but unfortunately, are often the most vulnerable. We have initiated a number of child-focused activities to date such as offering scholarships and our Breath of Life campaign to help newborn babies, which have been well recognised by the government, local authorities and communities.”

“In 2015, there will be many other projects and initiatives focusing on children and this DRR project is one of them. We are very happy to have Save the Children as the partner for this meaningful programme, from which thousands of children will benefit. In the event of an emergency they will be able to protect themselves and help keep others safe.”

Save the Children’s Country Director Gunnar Andersen said: “Save the Children has 20 years of experience in emergency response and disaster risk reduction in Vietnam. Children are always the most vulnerable during emergencies and Save the Children works to ensure they are safe and protected”.

“In partnership with Prudence Foundation, we work closely with local partners to support vulnerable communities, including children, to better prepare for natural disasters. We have provided them with knowledge and skills in order to reduce the negative impacts of natural disasters, and to build a more comprehensive and effective model of child-focused, community-based disaster risk management in disaster prone provinces. By empowering individuals, this project is expected to have a long lasting impact on communities which will ultimately save lives.”

Prudence Foundation has been supporting DRR programmes in Vietnam since 2012. In collaboration with Save the Children, the Foundation has previously funded a project to increase awareness of disaster risk reduction and the possible negative impacts of climate change for children and community members in disaster prone locations in two Mekong River Delta provinces of Dong Thap and Tien Giang from 2013-2014.

Read in Vietnamese Press Release – March 30 – Vietnamese

Put smiles on a child’s face

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One of the most rewarding bonuses in my job is that I get to see what impact our programme have made on children. I have witnessed the interaction between a child and his/her sponsor and how this relationship means to the child.

It was my second day of working at the project site. I had to deliver a sponsor’s letter to a six-year old girl – Thuy. She is a very shy and didn’t want to say a word to us as Save the Children’s staff. I have a poor experience of working with children at her age. Thuy speaks only basic Kinh or Vietnamese language and she just started to learn writing. Later, I learned that she was happy to receive a letter from her “big friend” [our private sponsor] from a foreign country but she was a little shy to show her joy of seeing the letter.

After that day, I started to be dipped in work other than delivering letters to our sponsored children. Together with local community volunteers, we organize events and activities to improve children’s living and education environment and conduct household visits to deliver letters from our sponsors. I have had more opportunities to see the joy in the eyes of children we are supporting when they received letters from “their friends”.

But the girl I met for my first working day was really impressive so that I would like to come back to see her. I just received another letter from Thuy’s sponsor so I asked my supervisor for a chance of delivering the letter for her, and I got it.

It took two hours to get to Thuy’s house on a 20km mountain route. Thuy was playing with her friends and became quiet again when she saw me. After I suggested that I could take some photos for her, she was getting a bit more comfortable. When I told her that I was bringing another letter from her sponsor, she was suddenly excited. She took the letter, opened the letter and read it slowly. She became friendly and even asked me to stay with her family.

 On the way back to the office, I was thinking if there is someone out there who cares for a child’s life, he/she absolutely put a smile on the child’s face. What else could be more important than a child’s smile?

Letter Delivery Brightens Everyone’s Day

After traveling winding roads through the mountains of northwestern Vietnam, I finally arrive at the school. Being given the chance to deliver sponsor letters is always the most enjoyable task. Seeing me, children wave their hands and give big smiles, with visible curiosity in their eyes. “It’s so great. This is the first time I got a letter from a person living in another country. It’s also amazing that my sponsor is Vietnamese. You see, he knows Vietnamese and he writes me in Vietnamese. I’m so happy.” says Duc, a third grader. Hoang Thi Huyen (11400281) shows the letter she writes for her sponsor Ngan, 7 years old, jumps up and down when receiving a letter from his Italian sponsor. “Let’s see the photo and letter my friend gave me. That’s an adorable girl. She is 7 years old, just like me. She is really pretty, right?” Ngan asks me while reading the letter from her sponsor. Like Duc and Ngan, the other sponsored children show bright smiles whenever I deliver their sponsor letters. “I’m really excited. I have never heard about America before and I know nothing about it. Now, through my sponsor’s letters and photos, I know what it looks like…. Well, there is a very beautiful sea there.” Tu, a first grade student, shares. “I will tell him about my friends and school. I like drawing very much. I will draw pictures for him.” Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan (11400279) show the letter she gets from her sponsorAfter saying goodbye to the children, I leave the school with my bag full of letters and drawings and feel so happy. Connecting children from this mountainous area to their sponsors living on the other side of the earth is such meaningful work

The biggest gift of Mother’s Day

By Lim Lynette

As a child growing up, I remember my mother saving the best cuts at dinner for me, making sure my clothes were ironed, that I had books for school and saw a doctor every time I ran a temperature. At that tender age, I already knew that all a mother ever wants is for her children to be healthy, develop well and thrive when they grow up.

But what the best mothers have to offer is sometimes simply not good enough. In urban slums, rural and remote areas where many mothers themselves are malnourished, lack social protection, and access to health services and education, what she can offer her child can be extremely limited.

Simply put, a mother’s greatest dream is for a child that survives and thrives, but it remains a dream for many in South East Asia.

That is not to dismiss great strides made in parts of the region. On Save the Children’s 2014 State of the World’s Mothers report, Singapore has again been ranked 15th out of 178 countries, ahead of Japan, New Zealand, UK and USA. Cambodia (ranked 132nd) and Vietnam (ranked 93rd) have both made significant improvements in maternal and child health over the past 15 years; Cambodia reduced lifetime risk of maternal mortality by two thirds while Vietnam reduced that by half.Children in Thailand (ranked 72nd) are now 40% less likely to die before their fifth birthday than they were 15 years ago.

Indeed, these overall improvements are impressive but they also mask huge disparities in terms of maternal and child well-being. These can be in terms of the divide between the rich and the poor or between urban and rural communities. In both Cambodia and Vietnam, a child living in rural or mountainous areas is 2.5 times more likely to die than a child living in an urban area. In Laos, less than 5 per cent of the poorest quintile have trained help when they deliver their babies, compared to 90 per cent in the richest quintile.

Globally, nearly half of the 6.6 million children dying each year die because their bodies are so weak from lack of the right nutrients to fight off common illnesses. Many babies are born small as a direct result of malnourished mothers, which highlights the critical importance of better nutrition for women and girls. In Cambodia alone, 40 per cent of the children are stunted, many of them from poor and rural communities. Children who are stunted at a young age will not develop mentally and physically as they should, making it even harder for them to break out of the poverty cycle.

Breast milk is widely regarded as one of key solutions to protecting infants from stunting. It is the single best source of food and nutrients for any infant – breastfed babies are less likely to be malnourished, have stronger immune systems, less susceptible to obesity and diabetes later in life, and have a higher IQ than non-breastfed babies. Mothers who breastfeed their babies too are less likely to die from post-partum hemorrhage and contract ovarian and breast cancer later on.

Yet because mothers are not provided with a supportive environment to breastfeed their children, many are on formula or other liquids at just a couple of weeks or months old. Mothers working in informal sectors do not have the maternity leave they need, some are unaware of the benefits of breastfeeding due to aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes, while others lack support to persevere in exclusive breastfeeding.

Women also need protection in order to have babies only when their bodies are ready to conceive and deliver. A teenage girl is twice as likely to die from pregnancy complications as a woman in her twenties. In parts of South East Asia, teenage pregnancy is on the rise and with a lack of sex and reproductive health education and availability of safe abortion services, girls are left having unprotected sex and seeking illegal abortions to handle unplanned pregnancies. For instance, Thailand currently has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the region, at 54 per 1,000 live births, with many other girls seeking illegal abortions as the country forbids it except for cases of rape or serious risk to the mother’s health.

In order to improve the well-being of mothers and children, deliberate choices need to be made by families, communities, corporates and governments to support and protect them. It is ensuring that every mother and child has access to a health worker, is supported in breastfeeding, protected from childbirth until a suitable age and is able to go to school.

All a mother wants is for her child to survive and thrive. This Mother’s Day, Save the Children calls on families, communities, corporations and governments to give mothers the best gift they could ever ask for: a supportive environment for them to raise their children.

Op-ed – SEEA Version Final-Vietnamese

Students race to appeal for better health services for disadvantaged children

By Dang Ngoc Hoa

More than 200 students from seven colleges of Hue University ran around the citadel city of Hue to appeal for joint efforts by the government and communities to reduce the death of children caused by preventable diseases and to improve health services for disadvantaged children in remote and ethnic minority communities.

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This is an annual event “Child Survival Race” by Save the Children as part of its Children’s Everyone Campaign which aims to reduce the mortality rate by children under 5 by 2/3 by 2015.

Viet Nam has made a tremendous progress in improvement of child mortality in the last decade. The mortality rate of children under five was dropped from 58/1000 in 1990 to 23/1000 in 2013 while the infant mortality rate decreased by four times to 15.3/1000 last year.

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Despite the achievement, challenges remain in regard of disparity and for those left behind. The access to quality health service is still limited for ethnic minorities, for families in remote rural areas and migrant children. The infant and under-five mortality rates in mountainous areas are doubled or tripled of those in the lowlands.

By joining the race, the students disseminated messages that emphasized the rights of child survival, the need to invest in health worker training, in health facilities and to make the availability of trained midwives and doctors for poorer communities and for those in remote rural and mountainous areas.

“The Government of Vietnam has noted the disparities of children health indicators between regions and groups of population. The Ministry of Health has approved an action plan in 2010-2015 to overcome the problem. However, we should work closely with UN and other international organisations to tackle it”, said Phan Thi Ninh, the Deputy Head of Maternal and Child Care Department from the Ministry of Health.

The students were racing with distance of 3.7km for female and 5.5km for male. Both female and male winners are from the College of Physics who are Nguyen Viet Tai and Nguyen Thi Yen Nhi at 17’52s68 and 19’37s60 respectively.

“I’m very pleased and happy to take part in this race and especially, I was on the first landing.
After this race, I will tell everyone that participating in this tournament is very happy; I will carry the message of child health protection to everyone”, said Nguyen Thi Yen Nhi.

“The race gives everyone much more aware of the importance of children”, said Nguyen Viet Tai.

“If this tournament is organized next year, I will continue to participate in and encourage everyone to participate. I want Race for Child Survival will be able to expand more, invite the high schools to participate in to bring the meaningful messages to many more people”.

Vietnam: bridging the language divide in education

by Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly

Over the last ten years, there’s been remarkable progress in getting more children into school. However, there’s increasing recognition that these children aren’t reaching the learning levels they should.

Vietnam 3In school but not learning

The latest estimate is that 200 million children in primary school are learning so little that they are struggling to read basic words.

There are lots of reasons why this is the case but one is the very language used at school: 221 million children worldwide are speakers of local languages that are not used for teaching.

Faced with the prospect of their children attending classes where they won’t understand what’s going on, many families elect not to send them to school at all. Many of those children who do make it to school quickly drop out, while those who stay fail their examinations and spend years repeating grades.

This situation robs children of the opportunity to master basic skills and wastes precious resources.

Solving the language problem in Vietnam

Before 2010, many children from ethnic minorities living in remote parts of Vietnam didn’t like going to school. Lessons were taught in Vietnamese, the country’s official language – but one these children didn’t speak.

However, a project designed specifically to improve these children’s quality of education has been very successful over the past three years. More children have been attending school, often arriving early to read the books in their own language now available in their new school library.

Two key features helping to bridge the language gap

First, teaching assistants who speak the children’s dialect are recruited locally to work alongside Vietnamese-speaking, state-qualified teachers, explaining lessons to students in their own  language.

Second, the project supports the production of reading material in the local language, much of it generated by the teachers and students themselves. The content of these books reflects the children’s lives and culture, making it more interesting to them.

And more broadly, the project has worked to incorporate more of the children’s culture into the education they receive.

Training was given to 6,500 teachers, along with meetings to exchange knowledge and advice. They also improved their teaching skills by producing customised learning materials.

And the results have been heartening: enrollment, retention and transitions have all improved, demonstrating that education can be used to bridge rather than reinforce the language divide.

All children have the right to read

Until we stop using traditional approaches to teaching and acknowledge that some children won’t understand the official language, whatever that may be, we won’t fully address the learning crisis in which millions of schoolchildren fail to acquire the basic skills they need to fulfil their potential.

Save the Children has been working for many years to strengthen mother tongue-based, multilingual education  and has produced various reports and detailed guidance to help schools in low- and middle-income  countries respond to children’s language needs.

Greater awareness of the ways in which language can exclude children from education together with practical action in support of mother tongue learning are fundamental to addressing the global learning crisis.

Click here to see a video of our project in Vietnam.

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Save the Children hands over micro-finance programme to its partners

Save the Children in Vietnam announced that the organization would hand over its financial interest generation from a five-year micro-finance programme to Can Tho Women Union to support the union’s direct support to poor women in the Mekong River Delta province.

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Apart from that, Save the Children also provided trainings on the management and skills of the progamme’s implementation to ensure a smooth transition for its women partner.

Save the Children started the micro-finance programme, known as “Golden Hands” in 2009 with an aim to financially assist poor women in Mekong River Delta, namely Can Tho, Hau Giang and Ca Mau provinces, to improve their incomes through support on establishment of small business and aqua and agricultural production.

“Household economic condition always clings to the health, education, and potential growth of children. Therefore, Save the Children’s livelihoods projects regard mothers of children as the prime beneficiaries with the expectation that they will use their increasing incomes for the sake of their children”, said Gunnar Andersen.

The programme, funded by Chevron, has proved its influence on poor women with the average growth of client of 22% each year. A programme evaluation workshop was organized last week heard that 74% of its clients increased their income through loans and gradually replaced the high-interest loans by private lenders.

At the workshop, vice chairperson from Can Tho Women Union, Vo Kim Thoa revealed a plan to establish “Fund for Women” in replacement of micro-finance programme in the light of the programme wrapping-up in June.

Watch our video

Save the Children is awarded for its contribution to Da Nang’s development

Save the Children was awarded a Certificate of Merits by Da Nang People’s Committee for its valuable contribution to the city’s social development last Friday.

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Da Nang is a coastal city in the central of Vietnam which is also in the disaster-prone areas of the country. In the last decade, Da Nang has made an impressive progress in term of economic development and has become a fastest economic and urban growth city in Vietnam.

Save the Children started to work in Da Nang city since 2000s with supports to people affected by natural disasters and a project to assist people with disability.

When Ketsana typhoon hit Da Nang in 2009 which killed a hundred and affected millions of people on coastal line, Save the Children was on the ground to support the people and their authorities to overcome the consequence of the storm. Save the Children has been well known for its most valuable supports, especially during this period.

Currently, Save the Children is implementing two programmes which are “Skills to Success” to support poor and disadvantaged young people to have better access to employment and “Climate Change Adaptation” to support the coastal communities to better prepare for disaster and climate change resilience.

For more news on Save the Children’s support to Da Nang: http://www.fad.danang.gov.vn/default.aspx?id_NgonNgu=EN&id_ThucDon_Sub=242&TinChinh=0&id_TinTuc=6276&TrangThai=BanTin

Disadvantaged children struggle in ‘lottery of birth’

Vietnamese children born into the Kinh ethnic group were nearly three and a half times less likely to die than their non-Kinh peers, Save the Children reports.

Despite a tremendous progress Vietnam has made in reducing under-five child mortality rates over the last two decades, a new research conducted by Save the Children has found that large groups of children are still being left behind, simply because of where they live and the circumstances in which they are born.

The Lottery of Birth report, based on inaugural analysis of disaggregated data from 87 low and middle income countries around the world, reveals that in more than three quarters of these countries inequalities in child survival rates are actually worsening, resulting in some groups of children making far slower progress than their better-off peers.

In Vietnam, parents from minority ethnic groups are less aware of government health programmes and informations about their conditions and treatment – an issue exacerbated by language barriers and local habits of neonatal care.

A big part in the cause of deaths for children under the age of five is due to the difficulties in access to neonatal services or the quality of neonatal services for families in remote areas. The total neonatal mortality accounts for 54% of deaths in Vietnam.

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Save the Children’s analysis suggests that, without a true step change in action, the lottery of birth will continue into the future, slowing progress towards the ultimate goal of ending preventable child deaths for generations to come.

However, tackling this inequality is possible. Indeed, almost a fifth of the countries in the report, including Rwanda, Malawi, Mexico, and Bangladesh, have successfully combined rapid and inclusive reductions in child mortality, achieving faster progress than most countries, while at the same time ensuring that no groups of children are left behind.

The agency calls for the international community to commit to ending preventable child deaths by 2030.

The new development framework, which will replace the MDGs, will be agreed upon at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. This framework must set out ambitious child and maternal survival targets and commit to working towards universal health coverage.

It should also include targets to ensure that even the poorest, most marginalised and disadvantaged groups of children are included in global race to improve under-five child survival by 2030.

‘In this day and age, it is scandalous that so many children’s chances of survival across the world is purely a matter of whether or not they were lucky enough to be born into an affluent family who can access quality healthcare,’ says Gunnar Andersen, Save the Children in Vietnam’s Country Director.

‘We know that change is possible. We now have a significant window of opportunity to drive this change; world leaders must do everything in their power to ensure that they grasp this opportunity with both hands.’

Other key Lottery of Birth findings include:

  • Disadvantaged ethnic groups and regions are most likely to be left behind; regional disparities in child mortality rates increased in 59% of the countries, while disparities between ethnic groups in 76%.
  • More positively, 17,000 fewer children now die every day than they did in 1990, and the global under-five child mortality rate nearly halved from 90 to 46 deaths per 1000 live births between 1990 and 2013.
  • About a fifth of countries have achieved above median reductions in child mortality over the past decade, while at the same time ensuring that no particular groups of children are left behind.

Those First Days

By Pham Thu Trang, Communications Assistant- Child Sponsorship

Lao Cai is one of the poorest provinces where the ratio of gender imbalance at birth is increasing steadily. Having children in the workforce and imbalanced maternal nutrition has a huge impact on the development of the younger generation. By the end of 2013, a sponsorship team worked closely with local authorities to implement the Child Sponsorship Program. With the support of local partners, Kim Son commune has been chosen as the first site.

I still remember the day that I first came here for the enrollment event. It was a cold day, but bright one at the primary school. The wind hissed and the birds sang their songs as if welcoming us. The school is not big and well-facilitated, but very clean. Many families were so eager to have their children be sponsored; they brought their kids to the school early. When I looked into their eyes, I saw hope. In some people, it shines brightly, and in others it just flickers. However, we know that all those parents hope that a brighter future will come to their dear kids in result of Sponsorship Programs. The enrollment event seems like a big festival here. Many people wore traditional costumes. Men were dressed neatly in a short vests open at the front and trousers, while women wore long dresses decorated with various motifs. I adored the place at the first sight.

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Each member in the team took their own responsibility. Taking pictures of children was my role in the whole process. This job seems to be very simple, but is not easy at all. It’s a bit easier for me because I love children and I can get along with them very well. Some of the kids were very talkative and very excited to have their photos taken for the first time. Others were timid at first, just glancing at us with curious eyes from a distance, or shyly waving their hands to welcome us. Nevertheless, I gradually found the way to connect with all of the children and I was happy to get such wonderful pictures of them.

We realized that the difficulties the children have been through have not prevented them from enjoying the beauty of life. They keep smiling and hoping for a better future. We have been inspired by the children to implement the program because of their great sense of hope.

 

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