Better Health Services for Viet Nam's Rural Poor, Ethnic Minorities

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is financing a project to improve health care services in Viet Nam's south central coast region, home to nine million people, including half a million people from ethnic minorities.

The Project covers Da Nang City and seven provinces (Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Khanh Hoa, Ninh Thuan, and Binh Thuan) – four of which have poverty levels significantly above the national average of 19.5%.

The 32-year, $72 million loan will be sourced from ADB’s Asian Development Fund. The government of Viet Nam will provide an additional $8 million to complete the financing requirements.

Viet Nam’s public health care system lacks the proper resources and is burdened with old facilities and equipment. At the same time, demand for health services is rising rapidly due to higher incomes and education, an aging population, rural-urban migration, and an increase in non-communicable diseases and traffic accidents.

In addition to improving overall health services for the poor, the project will target health care for women, children, and ethnic minorities, with a special focus on reproductive health care.

“Given current trends, the country can only achieve its Millennium Development Goals by 2015 if it makes a considerable effort to improve the quality of care and financial access for the poor and ethnic minorities in lagging communities with high mortality, morbidity, and malnutrition rates,” said Vincent de Wit, Principal Health Specialist in ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

The project will help build or upgrade 20 hospitals, five district preventive medicine centers, and a training school for nurses and paramedics. It will also equip new and existing facilities with quality water, sanitation, and medical waste management systems.

Support will be given to the hiring and training of medical staff and village health workers, and for improvements in basic health care for 423 remote communes, as well as for the development of well-managed, and better-used provincial health systems.

The World Bank is funding a similar project in the north central coastal region.

The Project presents a transition in ADB’s health sector support from a traditional project approach to a program approach, and supports a comprehensive provincial health systems development approach, financing a slice of the provincial five year plan in each of the provinces.

The ADB project will be followed by a national sector development program in 2009 which is currently under preparation.