Speech by Ms. Ritsu Nacken, UNFPA Representative a.i. in Viet Nam

10 July 2015

Your Excellency Mr. Uong Chu Luu, Vice Chairman of the National Assembly;

Mr. Nguyen Viet Tien, Vice Minister of Health;

Mr Nguyen Van Suu, Chairman of Ha Noi People's Committee

Mr. Nguyen Van Tan, Director General in-charge of the General Office for Population and Family Planning;

Representatives of the Ministry of Health, GOPFP and government organizations, Embassies, international organizations, donor agencies, NGOs, representatives of the private sector, media and my fellow UN colleagues;

Ladies and gentlemen,

A good morning to you all,

I am greatly honoured to join this special celebration with you, on behalf of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Viet Nam to commemorate the 2015 World Population Day. Let me from the outset thank the General Office for Population and Family Planning (GOPFP) - Ministry of Health, and the Ha Noi Peoples' Committee, for hosting and co-organizing this Celebration today.

World Population Day is celebrated across the world on 11 July to focus our global attention to some of the most pressing population concerns of our time. And the global theme for this year is "Vulnerable population in Emergencies" focusing on women and girls who are among the most vulnerable groups.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A recent United Nations report warns that the number of forcibly displaced people has risen to a record number – almost 60 million at the end of 2014. Among these, most women and adolescent girls face particular threats as a result of the absence of health and other essential services that they need.

Even under normal conditions, reproductive health complications are a leading cause of death and illness among women of childbearing age.

Women and adolescent girls also face much greater risk of abuse, sexual exploitation, violence and forced marriage during conflicts and natural disasters. In addition, many women who survive a crisis become heads of household, with the sole responsibility of caring for their children. They often have to overcome immense obstacles to provide care for children, the sick, the injured and the elderly, and bear the heaviest burden of relief and reconstruction.

That is why the theme of this World Population Day is intended to highlight the special needs of women and adolescent girls during conflicts and humanitarian disasters.

Distinguished guests,

At the onset of a disaster UNFPA deploys hygiene kits, obstetric and contraceptive supplies, trained personnel and other support to vulnerable populations. It also works to ensure the needs of women, adolescent girls and young people are served through both an emergency and the reconstruction phase. Our aim is to ensure dignity, safety and reproductive health for all women and girls at all times.

I would like to give you one recent example from the devastating earthquake happened in Nepal on April 25. The earthquake has claimed more than 8,000 lives, caused thousands of injuries, and destroyed homes, infrastructure, and many valuable cultural heritage sites. Of those who were affected, about 2 million women and girls of reproductive age required immediate assistance.  More than 126,000 pregnant women are among the survivors. UNFPA has been on the ground to ensure safe births and provide critical aid to mothers and infants. We have been distributing delivery kits and providing sanitary pads and other essential supplies that allow displaced women and girls a modicum of normalcy and general health services in the wake of the disaster. We add value to the overall recovery efforts by focusing on the specific needs of women and girls of reproductive age.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Viet Nam is one of the most hazard-prone countries in the Asia and Pacific region. With the long coast line and approximately 70% of population living in the coastal areas and low-lying deltas, it is said to be one of the five countries in the world that are most affected by climate change. Therefore, Viet Nam needs to prepare well for responding natural disasters effectively while ensuring that the critical needs of women and girls are not overlooked at the onset of emergencies. We believe that this year’s national theme, "Increase vulnerable population's access to quality reproductive health and family planning services in natural disasters" is a very timely topic to discuss in the context of Viet Nam.

UNFPA works with the Government and other development partners to find innovative ways to assist Viet Nam in securing the health, development and human rights of Vietnamese people, particularly women and girls. When a crisis strikes, UNFPA is on the ground to make sure that the rights and needs of women and girls are at the forefront of humanitarian responses. Securing their safety, dignity and health ensures the well-being of families and communities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

On this World Population Day, we call on the Government of Viet Nam and international community to enhance our efforts to protect the health and rights of women and girls. By prioritizing health, rights and the full participation of women, adolescent girls and young people in public life, we increase our prospects for a more just, stable and peaceful world.

Thank you very much for your attention and active participation in this important event. I wish you all a healthy, happy and successful World Population Day!

Xin cam on!