Speech of Ms. Astrid Bant, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam on the Launching Ceremony of the project with the Ministry of Health

17 November 2017

Dr. Nguyen Viet Tien, Vice Minister of Health,

Dr. Phan Le Thu Hang, Deputy Director of Planning and Finance Department,

Dr. Nguyen Duc Vinh, Director of MCH,

Dr. Nguyen Thị Ngọc Lan, Deputy Director of GOPFP,

Representatives of the MPI, MOFI, MOLISA, MOCST, GSO and other line ministries,

Representatives of the various departments of the MOH and DOH from seven provinces,

Representatives of WB, ADB and international and national CSOs,

UN colleagues and media,

A very good morning to all!

It is indeed our pleasure to be here today, for the launch of the project on "Technical assistance to the Ministry of Health for effectively addressing inequalities in sexual and reproductive health and family planning and responding to emerging issues through developing and monitoring the implementation of evidence- and human rights-based laws, policies and programs” implemented by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and with technical assistance from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Viet Nam. This collaboration is part of the One Strategic Plan to be jointly delivered by the Government of Viet Nam and United Nations for the period 2017-2021. The project will further complement and strengthen joint programming efforts of UN agencies, particularly UNICEF and WHO, under the health output of the One Strategic Plan.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, to which the government of Viet Nam is a signatory, was a milestone in the history of population and development, as well as reproductive rights and women's rights to health. At the conference, the world agreed that population is not just about numbers or counting people, but about making sure that every person counts and has access to quality reproductive health care including voluntary family planning services. Since ICPD, countries around the world, including Viet Nam, have invested a significant amount of resources for improving access to and utilization of sexual and reproductive health services. ICPD now forms part of the development agendas, such as of poverty reduction, women’s rights and sustainable development and reducing the strain on the environment in many countries, including Viet Nam.

We are all aware and proud of Viet Nam’s achievement of most MDGs, including MDG5 on reducing maternal mortality. However, while achievements must be sustained, wide disparities and inequities in access to and utilization of sexual and reproductive health services between urban and rural areas, geographical zones and vulnerable groups still remain and both need to and will be addressed in the national socio-economic development plan and in the context of Agenda 2030 with the ultimate goal of achieving the SDGs and leaving absolutely no one behind.

Let me highlight three key issues today:

First, access to sexual and reproductive health for disadvantaged groups:

According to the 2014 Inter-census Population Survey, young people aged 10 to 24, accounted for approximately 22 million of a total population of over 90 million in the country in 2014 . Updated evidence from the national survey on sexual and reproductive health among adolescents conducted in 2016 indicated that unmet need for modern contraceptives is as high as 30% amongst unmarried young people. It is clear that gaps have existed in the provision of adolescent sexual and reproductive health services in policies and programs of the Ministry of Health for many years.
It is estimated that a high number of unwanted pregnancies occur every year as a consequence of high discontinuation rates, high contraceptive failure rates and high unmet need of quality modern family planning services among certain groups in the population. Bridging these gaps in access and provision of SRH services, particularly for young people, will help each person to pursue his or her interests and fulfill their potential. Investing in young people's health and development will also help the country to reap long term socio-economic gains.

Second, cervical cancer prevention:

Cervical cancer is now a key focus in the area of sexual and reproductive health for Vietnam. The number of deaths from cervical cancer can be as high as 2500-2700 each year in the country. That is to say, 10 cervical cancer-related deaths occurred yesterday and 10 will occur today. We have the evidence showing that access to the HPV vaccine for young girls and effective early screening can significantly reduce these numbers. However, HPV vaccines, though successfully piloted, are not yet widely utilized. In addition, HPV vaccination and early screening of cervical cancer are not yet covered by the current national health insurance package. This poses a major barrier in preventing 10 more Vietnamese women from dying tomorrow and the next day and the next as a result of this, largely preventable, deadly disease.

Third, evidence based policy development:

Another key focus of the project in this cycle is to generate quality evidence and develop laws, policies and guidelines on sexual and reproductive health and rights. At this point, I would like to address that while we are trying to improve the quality of generated data, application of updated evidence in laws, policy and programme development and implementation is vital. In addition, given the diverse needs of the population, one-size-fits-all policies do not work. Therefore, we need to ensure that the design of all laws, policies and guidelines include the participation of  the people whose needs they are meant to address, and that the results of these laws and investments can be implemented and monitored at local levels.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we gather here today to discuss programme priorities and implementation strategies of the project for the period 2017-2021, I would like to highlight the following key messages:

  1. A focus on developing and monitoring a human rights’ based approach in sexual and reproductive health service provision where all citizens including disadvantaged groups such as youth and unmarried migrants have the ability to make well informed choices as a result of receiving quality services. MOH must take a leading role on this important issue.
  2. Ambitious work is being undertaken by the government to achieve sustainable health care financing and universal health coverage. This financing must include universal access to the HPV vaccine and early cervical cancer screening as well as other vital sexual and reproductive health services.
  3. Lastly, effective implementation and monitoring of national policy at the local level.  UNFPA, together with UNICEF, WHO and other UN partners, stands committed to support the Government of Viet Nam in achieving this vision of universal access to an integrated package of quality sexual and reproductive health services in every commune and district of the country. Furthermore, this vision will be stronger if a united and multi-sectoral approach is taken on healthcare issues, which involves a strong partnership between the public and private sector as well as CSOs.

Finally, I would like to thank the Ministry of Health for its ongoing efforts to work with us in the past year to develop and finalize the concept note, PIP and project document so that we can come together and launch the project today. I look forward to working closely with all of you in effectively responding to sexual and reproductive health priorities and needs of the Vietnamese people and contributing to the achievement of the national sustainable development goals.

Thank you very much for your attention and participation. I wish you all good health, happiness and success.