US$2 mil project to prevent maternal deaths in Vietnamese ethnic minority women

More than US$2 million will be provided to help Vietnam reduce maternal deaths among ethnic minority women under a freshly-signed project.

The project “Leaving no one behind: Innovative interventions to reduce maternal mortality in ethnic minority regions in Vietnam” was signed on September 24 by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Vietnam, Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD HH Vietnam), a leading global biopharmaceutical company, and MSD for Mothers. 

“Vietnam has made significant progress in improving sexual and reproductive health of the general population in the past 20 years, and was one of the only six countries in the world, which achieved, in 2015, the Millennium Development Goal – 5 (MDG5) on the reduction of maternal mortality,” UNFPA Representative in Vietnam Kitahara Naomi told the signing and launching ceremony of the project.

However, disparities and inequalities remain in access to and utilization of sexual and reproductive health services among different ethnic groups and regions, she said.

Since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and disproportionately affected vulnerable population groups, especially women and girls in general and pregnant mothers in the ethnic minority regions in particular, Kitahara said, adding that UNFPA is very much alarmed by this, as it essentially meant a reversal of developmental gains that Vietnam has achieved in the past decades in the areas of sexual and reproductive health.

Jennifer Cox, General Director of MSD HH Vietnam, said she believes this project will bring tangible benefits to women in Vietnam and set the foundation for communities and societies to thrive for generations to come.

Nguyen Duc Vinh, Director of the Maternal and Child Health Department under the Ministry of Health confirmed the support of the ministry to the project, adding to improve the health status of people who left behind including ethnic minorities is the centre of the government’s development agenda.

Funded by MSD for Mothers and MSD Vietnam in the amount of US$1.2 million and the UNDP with US$810,000, the project is one of the most important initiatives to reduce maternal mortality among ethnic minorities in six provinces in Vietnam’s Northern Midlands and Mountains.

The project aims at increasing access to and utilization of integrated, quality and voluntary sexual and reproductive health services amongst ethnic minorities; improving the capacity on emergency obstetric care management in remote mountainous localities; and building a village-based birth attendant network in remote ethnic minority localities.

It will also integrate the COVID-19 prevention and control into the existing sexual and reproductive health programme and deliver innovative health education and community mobilization to ethnic minority communities to promote safe maternal deliveries.

Women, especially pregnant women, in 60 remote ethnic minority communes of six most disadvantaged provinces of Bac Can, Lai Chau, Son La, Dac Nong, Kon Tum and Gia Lai are expected to benefit from the project’s innovative interventions.

UNFPA will deliver the project in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Provincial Departments of Health in the selected provinces, and local civil society organizations from September 1, 2021 to September 30, 2024.

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