UNICEF Says 2.5 Million Vietnamese Children at Risk


2003-10-03
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Abuse, disease, neglect accompany social change

Rapid economic growth and reform in Vietnam has led to social changes that could put up to 2.5 million Vietnamese children at risk from exploitation, violence, neglect, and abuse.

In a report issued as part of its country program for Vietnam, the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, called on the government to improve policies affecting children.

It detailed a series of social pressures resulting from rapid economic change, calling for a stronger focus on social work, parental education, counseling, and schemes to prevent child abuse and exploitation.

UNICEF has also called on the Vietnamese authorities to monitor a round-up of street children as part of a campaign to spruce up cities for a December sports competition. Some children have claimed they taken away from their parents during the drive.

"We've advised them there should be some monitoring," Anthony Bloomberg, UNICEF's Vietnam representative said. The authorities launched a campaign last month to take working children, vagrants and even some vendors off city streets in preparation for the Southeast Asian Games, which Vietnam is hosting for the first time from Dec. 5-13.

Several children sent to a government childcare center outside the capital, Hanoi, were reported to have said that they had been taken away without their parents' knowledge and wanted to go home.

Vietnam has about 20,000 street children, according to a government survey, including children who work in public and stay with parents, homeless children, and those who work in cities but have families living in the countryside. Of these, around 1,500 live in Hanoi, and around 8,500 are in Ho Chi Minh City.

In its report, UNICEF also called for more efforts to help the more than 283,000 children affected by HIV/AIDS "to ensure they do not suffer discrimination and have access to health and social services."

A joint study by UNICEF and Vietnam's Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs said 263,000 children are living with HIV-positive parents, with 19,200 infected with the virus.

Malnutrition also persists among Vietnamese children, with one in three Vietnamese children undernourished, the UNICEF report said.

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