Posts or Comments 24 June 2024

Community &WASH &water Bill Brieger | 19 Aug 2023 06:10 am

WASH and UNICEF in Vietnam: A Tale of New Policies, Successes and Challenges

Kayla Vuong has written about the importance of water and sanitation in the class blog of the JHU course Social and Behavioral Foundations of Primary Health Care. Below are her observations.

“Universal access to clean, safe drinking water and improved sanitation” still remains a challenge in Vietnam, a low-middle income country in Southeast Asia. In order to address this challenge, the Government of Vietnam has asked for support from the United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who has had 40 years of experience in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

Since its involvement in 2018, UNICEF has helped the Vietnamese government develop national WASH policy and test out policy implementation at four remote provinces of Vietnam (Dien Bien, Gia Lai, Kom Tum and An Giang).

In fact, UNICEF has been collaborating with many Vietnam national partners such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Ministry of Health (MOH), Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Construction (MOC) to deploy “communication tools on drinking water safety, household water treatment and storage, community-led total sanitation (CLTS), and school-led total sanitation and WASH in schools under the Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD) program“.

Additionally, UNICEF has also planned National “Open Defecation Free” (ODF) initiatives which is still pending approval from the Ministry of Construction.

These efforts really paid off as improvement in water safety, sanitation and hygiene has been observed throughout the country. Indeed, thousands of households have benefited from “upgraded WASH facilities and ceramic water filters; 18,000 children now practice healthy WASH behaviors“, as seen in the featured picture of this blog.

However, “disparities in access to hygiene and sanitation remain a social challenge.” Open defecation is still a social norm in the poorest regions of Vietnam such as the Central Highlands and Northern mountainous regions. Only 13% of the population wash their hands with soap after defecating and “the rate is even lower among ethnic minority groups.”

Clearly, there are still more work to be done. Moving forward, in order to sustain WASH, the Government of Vietnam should involve its stakeholders who may be able to support them. For example, key findings in WASH should be shared with all the stakeholders (MAR, MOH, MOE, MOC, community partners, etc.) for program development and policy discussion purposes. The government should also partner up with local ceramic manufacturers to produce low-cost ceramic filters for the public.

Finally, Vietnam should enlist its biggest supporter UNICEF, who has great partnerships and global cooperation networks, to invest more in both direct interventions for improved facilities, local capacities in WASH and policy development to bridge those disparities.

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