FAO Representation
Viet Nam

Ministries of Agriculture and Health Work Together to Reach Hunger Goal

Ministries of Agriculture and Health Work Together to Reach Hunger Goal

04 Jul 2013 -- The final workshop of a successful national programme to improve food security and nutrition opened today in Hanoi. Innovative in the way that it links agriculture, health and nutrition interventions together for the first time, the $3.5 million Joint Government and UN Programme is helping Viet Nam reduce stunting and accelerate progress towards reaching two crucial Millennium Development Goals on hunger and child mortality by 2015.

Although one third of Vietnamese children still fail to reach their full height potential, the stunting rate from under-nutrition is finally falling. Over the past three years the Joint Programme has helped to improve breastfeeding rates in six targeted Provinces, at the same time as working with local farmers increase the availability of safe, good quality food. Baby-friendly hospitals visited during the final evaluation could report an increase in early initiation of breastfeeding from 70.5 to 97 per cent. Village-based breastfeeding groups established in areas of An Giang Province could report an increase in breastfeeding rates from 80 to 92 per cent with exclusive breastfeeding for six month from 0 to 12 per cent.   

Nationally, successful advocacy led to the extension of paid maternity leave from 4 to 6 months being approved in the 2012 Labour Code Amendment and implemented from January 2013. To further protect the breastfeeding rights of mothers and children, a ban on marketing of breastmilk substitutes and related products for children under 24 months was successfully included into the 2012 Law on Advertisement, and came into effect from January 2013.

The United Nations also helped to introduce international best practices for food security and nutrition in humanitarian situations. As a result, in future Viet Nam will be much better prepared to respond to the impact of typhoons, floods, drought and other natural disasters. A Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture has been established to protect the most at risk communities by generating early warnings of impending food insecurity in provinces and districts.

In Viet Nam undernutrition is most serious in remote mountainous areas, but there are also differences in food security between urban and rural areas, and between people of different ethnic groups. To ensure better availability of food at local level the National Nutrition Surveillance System has been significantly improved, with global indicators and data now being disaggregated by geographical location, ethnicity, gender and socio-economic status to prioritise areas that need the most assistance. More effective hospital and community-based treatment of children with severe acute malnutrition using locally produced therapeutic foods have also been successfully introduced.

“The Joint Programme is unique in the way that it has brought together the specialised expertise of three UN Agencies together with the Ministries of Health and Agriculture. By ‘delivering as one’ we can address food security, health and nutrition in a much more holistic, sustainable way” the UN Resident Coordinator, Pratibha Mehta, said at the workshop today.

According to Dr. Nguyen Thanh Long, Vice Minister of Health, the Joint Programme is now drawing to a close, but Viet Nam has entered a new chapter where health, nutrition and agriculture will continue to work more closely together for better results. In this way the Joint Programme has created a legacy of much better health and wellbeing of Vietnamese women and children.

Funded by the Government of Spain through the MDG Achievement Fund the Joint Programme has also helped to guide the way forward, contributing to the development of the 2012-2020 National Nutrition Strategy, implementation of the National Food Security Strategy and National 5 year Plan of Actions on Nutrition and Infant and Young Child Feeding and individual Provincial Action Plans.

For further information, please contact:

Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, UN Communications Office, Viet Nam,04 38225383 ext 118 or  ntthuong@unicef.org