BOSTON, Massachusetts — On November 15, 2022, USAID and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Vietnam (MONRE) announced the launch of Reducing Pollution, a five-year environmental project with an $11.3 million budget. Winrock International, one of USAID’s nonprofit partners, implemented the Reducing Pollution plan to address environmental pollution in Vietnam.
Memorandum of Understanding
The Reducing Pollution project is the product of USAID and Vietnam’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) from January 2022. According to USAID, the MoU and the Reducing Pollution project directly address “air quality management; integrated water resource management and water security; conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity” and several other environmental factors.
To effectively address Vietnam’s most pressing environmental challenges, USAID will depend on the combined input from the Government of Vietnam, social and community organizations, the public and private sectors and local residents. In addition to creating economic and social opportunities for the citizens of Vietnam, this project has the potential to assist people in poverty and their overall well-being.
The Effects of Environmental Pollution on Vietnam’s Poor
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 60,000 people in Vietnam died from air pollution-related diseases in 2016. Vietnam has dangerous levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which can reach the deep areas of the lungs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define fine particulate matter as tiny bits “of solids or liquids that are in the air,” which can be natural substances like soil or dust, or “secondary sources” that let off toxic gasses, such as industrial plants and construction sites. Some of the leading causes of Vietnam’s air pollution include transportation, agriculture and waste management.
Due to social, economic and geographical factors, risks associated with air pollution primarily affect people in poverty. One study in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam found that poor adults and children had higher exposure to unhealthy particle matter across two districts. Another study found that higher particulate matter in the dry season led to an increase in children hospitalized with acute lower respiratory infections.
Not only are Vietnam’s poor more exposed to poor environmental conditions, but according to the Poverty-Environment Partnership, “they have lower resistance to infection; they pay more for environmental health services; and when they fall ill, they lose income and even their jobs.”
Environmental pollution in Vietnam also impacts the economy. The World Bank estimates that Vietnam loses an annual 5% of its GDP due to the effects of air pollution. To address all of these issues effectively, the Reducing Pollution project aims to engage and consult with ordinary Vietnamese citizens who face the dangers of air pollution on an everyday basis.
Vietnam Takes the Lead
To combat environmental pollution in Vietnam, the Reducing Pollution plan emphasizes the efforts and experiences of local residents. While USAID will help fund and assist with Vietnam’s Reducing Pollution efforts, local Vietnamese organizations will be at the forefront of the project and its initiatives.
USAID stated that it would “make grants to a local organization to serve as the ‘backbone’ for each collective impact initiative.” Local leaders will be encouraged to educate other residents in Vietnam about the issue of air pollution and promote behavior change at an individual level.
At the launch event, Minister Tran Hong Ha stated that the Reducing Pollution project aimed “to address multi-sector pollution and mobilize the participation of different stakeholders for environmental protection.”
With local actors utilizing a variety of perspectives to assist in decision-making, Reducing Pollution may help reduce the life-threatening effects of air pollution on lower socioeconomic communities and the general population.
– Anna Lee