Vietnam needs to change its approach to ethnic minorities, according to John Hendra, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Vietnam.
Hendra said that Vietnam has done well with its poverty reduction programs for ethnic people minority. But "in order to be able to say that Vietnam has achieved all the [Millennium Development] goals in every part of the country, it is very important to deal with the ethnic minorities people in a different way and in a better way," he said.
The change is necessary to ensure the ethnic minorities themselves are much more involved and consulted in the development process, Hendra said.
Achieving qualitative engagement of ethnic minorities would involve overcoming cultural barriers in a sensitive manner, he added.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), established in 2000, consist of a set of targets for education, poverty, health and other areas. They were established with the hope that participating nations will achieve the goals by 2015.
"Vietnam, at the national level, is doing well," Hendra said.
"But sometimes these goals can disguise or hide some of the regional disparities. So you need to look not only at the goals themselves but also how each province is doing."
Hendra warned against rising disparities in Vietnam at the launch of the Vietnam MDGs report on September 17.
"If Vietnam is to achieve all the MDGs with equity, it is important that progress is sustained, that rising disparities are better targeted, that risks are anticipated and remaining gaps are addressed," he said.
According to the report, while overall poverty levels have dropped remarkably, stark disparities still exist.
High rates of multi-dimensional child poverty were found in rural areas, among ethnic minority groups and those living in the Northwest and Mekong Delta regions.
"Many women in rural mountainous areas do not have access to basic health services, including pregnancy checkups, delivery support, post-natal care, vaccinations and access to routine care and treatment," the report said.
Stunting still affects more than one-third of Vietnamese children, with the highest rates in the Central Highlands at 41 percent, and other disadvantaged regions where ethnic minority people live, with 35 percent in the Northeast and 36 percent in the Northwest.
Although maternal health has improved substantially, maternal mortality rates have remained unchanged between 2006 and 2009. In order to reach the MDGs target of reducing maternal mortality by three quarters (to 58.3 per 100,000 live births) even greater efforts are needed, the MDGs report said.
There are still differences in access to clean water between regions and between rural and urban areas, with the lowest level of access in the Northern mountainous region, Mekong Delta and Central Highlands regions.
For instance, only 18 percent of rural households, 12 percent of rural schools and 37 percent of commune health stations have hygienic latrines which meet the Ministry of Health standards, the report said.