Vietnam urged to continue good work, close the poverty gap

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Vietnam listed among top three countries in hunger eradication and poverty reduction

Vietnam has achieved a great deal in the way of alleviating the effects of extreme poverty. Experts caution, however, that the nation still needs to open social protection services to urban migrants and remote rural communities to ensure that they are not left behind.

"The Hungerfree Scorecard 2010 certainly acknowledges the fact that Vietnam has taken a lead in reducing hunger and malnutrition, as well as income poverty," said Saroj Dash, ActionAid Vietnam's Thematic and Governance Manager, told Thanh Nien Weekly via email.

He said that an ActionAid report titled "Who's really fighting hunger?" released on Tuesday (September 14) lauded the nation's dramatic reduction of its poverty rate from 28.9 percent in 2002 to 14.5 percent in 2008.

However, Dash said that poverty alleviation has not occurred across the board and there is a strong need to pursue a pro-poor growth policy with increased investment in the agriculture sector for sustainable agriculture.

"The increasing disparities between the rich and the poor have also caused the concerns to the rural and remote areas and extremely poor regions. Poverty alleviation among the migrants from rural to urban areas still face great challenges," Dash said.

Close to the mark   

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG), established in 2000, consist of a set of heuristics for education, poverty, health and other areas. The hope is that participating nations will achieve the goals by 2015. Recent progress will be reviewed at a United Nations summit on development which will be held in New York from September 21-23.

According to the ActionAid report, the effects of hunger could be costing developing countries US$450 billion a year.

"Vietnam has met the MDG 1 target of halving hunger in 2004, way ahead of the global target of 2015," Dash said. "Among the 28 developing countries scored, Vietnam ranks third under the first indicator [halving hunger]."

The report, which considered hunger reduction efforts in 28 developing countries, found that the majority were failing in their efforts to halve hunger by 2015. A lack of investment in agriculture and rural development, limited legal rights to food and a lack of support for farming communities when harvests fail all contributed to the problem, the group found.

Vietnam is among the countries that topped the rankings, along with Brazil, China, Ghana and Malawi. Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Pakistan and Lesotho came out worst in their efforts to cut rates of hunger, according to ActionAid's analysis.

On Wednesday, the British think tank, Overseas Development Institute, listed Vietnam and Ghana as the star performers in the race to reduce poverty and boost public health, AFP reported.

Vietnam managed to halve the proportion of underweight children and reduce the proportion of people living on less than one dollar a day from nearly two-thirds to one-fifth over the course of 14 years, the report said.

Work to be done

Experts have called for even more efforts in tackling poverty and hunger, especially among marginalized ethnic minorities, rural poor and urban migrants.

Magdalena Sepúlveda, the United Nations Independent Expert on human rights and extreme poverty, has said that "While Vietnam has made impressive progress in reducing poverty over the past two decades, additional efforts are required to ensure the inclusion of vulnerable groups and the sustainability of progress made."

"Effective poverty reduction strategies must be always framed by the overall premise that everyone in Vietnam must enjoy the full range of civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights," the independent expert said in a press release issued on the last of her nine-day stay in Vietnam on August 31.

Sepúlveda also expressed concern over poverty among urban migrants and encouraged the authorities not only to devise new urban development initiatives but to take further measures to eliminate barriers obstructing their access to social services.

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