Vietnam strives to reduce child and infant mortality

How to expand the reach of proactive, preventive measures to improve children’s health and reduce the infant mortality rate is the target of a recently-approved action plan on the issue for the 2009-2015 period.

Deputy Health Minister Tran Chi Liem said at a seminar on October 7 that the plan is in response to the strategy for children’s survival initiated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The plan also aims to improve health care services for children under five to reach the millennium goal of reducing by the national mortality rate in that age group by two-thirds in the 1990-2015 period.

According to Health Ministry statistics, between 2001 and 2006, the mortality rates among children under one-year old fell from 35 to 16 per 1,000 live births, and for children under five from 42 to 26 per 1,000.

The rate of child malnutrition also decreased to 19.9 percent in 2008 from 31.9 percent in 2001.

The expanded national vaccination programme was recognised as the nation’s most successful programme for children’s health care, with 90 percent of children under-one now fully vaccinated.

However, the mortality rate of children at birth is still high, representing 70 percent of the rate among children under one and over 50 percent of those under five, and it has shown no signs of reduction.

The mortality rate among children in poor, rural, mountainous, remote or isolated areas is 3-4 times higher than for well-off families and those living in the delta areas.
According to the Health Ministry, Vietnam is one of the countries with the highest child mortality rates in the world. The country’s medical network and the quality of health care services have not yet met the demand, and its spending on health care is much lower than required, at an average US$7 per person per year which is well below the established minimum level of US$34 US$.

The national action plan for children’s health is striving to reduce the mortality rates among children under five to below 18/1,000, under one to 15/1,000, and among newborns to 10/1,000.

The plan focuses on all children from zero to 5-years old nationwide, to provide proactive, preventive care for mothers during the pregnancy, delivery and post-delivery, ,as well as educating mothers how to care for newborns, promoting breast-feeding and vaccinations for mothers and children.