RENTON, Washington — Despite significant advancements in improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in rural Vietnam, challenges persist. In 2021, a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and UNICEF Vietnam established the National Strategy for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation by 2030, with a vision to 2045. The program aims to secure the provision of safe water and sanitation facilities to approximately 62 million individuals living in rural regions of Vietnam.
Currently, UNICEF reports that inadequate access to clean water, basic toilets and hygienic practices frequently exposes rural children to water and sanitation-related diseases. The prevalence of open defecation and the proliferation of sub-standard latrines in rural Vietnam have resulted in over 9.5 million people discharging waste into their surroundings, polluting water sources.
Approximately 7.7 million children face inadequate access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities within their schools, as highlighted in a 2022 report by UNICEF.
Improper handwashing with soap, especially among impoverished households and ethnic minority groups, contributes to a plethora of health issues, such as diarrhea, which presently accounts for 10 percent of under-five child mortality in Vietnam.
As per MARD’s findings in 2021, 51% of rural households have access to clean water that aligns with the Ministry of Health’s quality standards, while 75% possess sanitary latrines.
The survey conducted in 2020 to evaluate progress toward the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals uncovered that 44% of individuals come from households whose water sources exhibited E. coli contamination. Limited access to clean water and quality sanitation significantly contributes to stunted growth for 20% of children below the age of 5 in Vietnam, with the percentage rising substantially to 32% for ethnic children.
A 2023 report by UNICEF, Formative Research on Rural Water Supply, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Nutrition in Viet Nam, found that 40% of rural ethnic-minority households faced reduced drinking water levels, and 20% of these households lacked access to drinking water from certain sources. Interruptions in their primary water sources among ethnic groups were reported: 46% for Hmong, 70% for Khmer, 35% for Thai and 12% for Bahnar, lasting over three months annually. Eight percent of the Jrai community noted the unavailability of their main water source for one to two months each year. Elevated turbidity and chemical pollution levels were detected in drinking water, affecting one in every five households.
Overview of the National Strategy For Rural Water Supply and Sanitation
On December 22, 2021, Vice Minister Nguyen Hoang Hiep and Ms. Rana Flowers, a representative of UNICEF Vietnam, co-chaired an event in Hanoi to launch the National Strategy in Rural Water Supply and Sanitation. To guide Vietnam to reach its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the National Strategy underscores the importance of upholding environmental cleanliness in public areas and households, intensifying efforts in disease prevention, control, and reduction linked to water and sanitation, and enhancing social welfare.
By 2030, 65% of the population will have access to standard clean water, providing a minimum of 60 liters per person daily. All rural households, schools and medical facilities will possess toilets adhering to usage standards. The strategy also calls for adopting personal hygiene practices across the board and establishing domestic wastewater collection systems in 25% of concentrated rural areas, with 15% of the collected wastewater undergoing treatment. Another objective involves treating livestock waste from 75% of livestock households and farms.
The strategy envisions that 100% of residents will have access to sustainable, safe and clean water and sanitation services by 2045. Half of concentrated rural residential areas will be equipped with domestic wastewater collection systems, with 30% of domestic wastewater treated. In addition, livestock waste from 100% of livestock households and farms will be treated.
Emphasizing the strategy’s significance, Ms. Rana Flowers underlined the need for strategic investments, unwavering dedication and cross-sector cooperation to optimize financial resources and integrate water and sanitation initiatives. Vice Minister Nguyen Hoang Hiep outlined vital implementation steps, including raising awareness through effective communication, improving institutional and policy frameworks for private sector engagement, exploring efficient management models for remote water and sanitation services, and leveraging global partnerships to introduce innovative, climate-resilient technologies.
Changes on the Ground
Since 2012, Planet Water Foundation has successfully executed over 85 clean water projects for 150,000 residents within rural provinces in Vietnam. Additionally, their installation of 70 AquaSafe and AquaTower water filtration systems in elementary schools has effectively enhanced clean water availability for students, teachers and the adjacent communities.
“Our efforts are focused on deploying our water filtration systems,” said John Deotrakul, the Director of Global Communications and Development. Recently, the organization has improved its AquaTower and AquaSafe projects.
Planet Water also established the Water-Health & Hygiene Education program to educate teachers on life-saving hygiene practices.
Together with other local organizations striving to enhance safe water provision and sanitation in Vietnam, the commendable undertakings of the Planet Water Foundation underscore their resolute dedication to ensuring clean water accessibility, advancing health and hygiene education and fostering healthier communities.
The National Strategy charts a promising trajectory for Vietnam. With a strong emphasis on sustainable investments, steadfast commitment and cross-sector collaboration, the strategy aims to optimize resources and seamlessly integrate water and sanitation initiatives within national and provincial frameworks. By prioritizing awareness, policy refinement, innovative management approaches and global partnerships, Vietnam aspires to bridge the rural-urban gap, elevate quality of life and fulfill its Sustainable Development Goals. The strategy’s roadmap illuminates the path toward future advancements, guiding the way to a more equitable and prosperous future for all rural communities in Vietnam.
– Freya Ngo