Vietnam's children face rising inequalities: UN

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Vietnam's growth has been relatively equitable but the country's children are facing rising inequalities, the United Nations said Tuesday.

Ethnic minority and rural youngsters are generally the most disadvantaged, said Geetanjali Narayan, chief of planning and social policy for the UN Children's agency UNICEF.

She spoke at the launch of a report on the social and economic conditions of the roughly 30 million children in Vietnam.

"We are seeing now a trend of increasing inequalities," she said, despite Vietnam's "truly outstanding" record on socio-economic growth that was achieved in a "relatively equitable" manner.

In 1986 the war-shattered, poverty-stricken country began to turn away from a planned economy to embrace the free market, a policy called "Doi Moi", which led to growth rates that ranked among the fastest in Asia.

The UNICEF report said Vietnam is an Asia-Pacific leader in achieving almost all of the Millennium Development Goals, a set of targets on education, poverty, health and other areas to be achieved by 2015.

"Yet segments of the child and adolescent population in Vietnam continue to live in conditions of deprivation and exclusion," said the report, which relied mainly on government data and was the most detailed study of its kind for about a decade.

"For example, quality health care, secondary education and clean water are not equally accessible to all children," it said.

"Child poverty in Vietnam today is almost certainly more prevalent and severe than is commonly believed."

Vietnam recently developed a new gauge of poverty based on essential needs including education, health and nutrition, rather than only relying on a monetarily-based poverty line, the report said.

"Using this approach, almost one-third of all children under the age of 16 are poor," it said, citing data that showed 62 percent of ethnic minority children are poor compared with 22 percent of the majority Kinh and ethnic Chinese.

The data showed 34 percent of rural children are poor, against 13 percent in cities.

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