As of the 1st of April, Vietnam enters a period of strict social distancing to combat the spread of COVID-19. Everyone is advised to stay at home and only go outside in order to buy food and medicine or in emergency situations. As of now, these measures are to be in place for 15 days. At present, there are 212 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Vietnam, and so far zero fatalities. The authorities in Vietnam have implemented strong measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including extensive quarantine measures and contact tracing, as well as a complete closure of borders and international flights. Travel within Vietnam is also severely restricted.
In anticipation of this development, we have implemented a number of changes to enable our team to work effectively from home. Our office in Hue will be temporarily closed while these restrictions are in place – but our team will still be working remotely.
Swimming for Safety
With the current measures in place, it is of course not possible for us to run swimming lessons and classroom based water safety education classes at the moment.
Since Tet holiday in February, schools have been closed nationwide in Vietnam. A number of drowning cases have occurred while the schools have been closed. School closures can be challenging for all parents, but particularly so for low income households. In Vietnam, many parents still need to work while schools are closed, and many cannot find suitable child care options. Some parents are forced to take their children to work with them, often in unsafe conditions, or leave them in the care of others who may not have the capacity to supervise them carefully. We have noted at least 17 cases of fatal child drownings during the school closures, occurring at times the children would have normally been safely supervised at school.
We are in full support of the Vietnam Government’s measures to combat COVID-19, including the current school closures. We must however do all we all can to ensure that more child lives are not lost to what is already the leading cause of child mortality. We are working with local and national partners to raise awareness about the risks of child drowning and the specific elevated risk factors at this time.
Drowning remains the leading cause of child death in Vietnam. Around 2,000 people drown every year. Drowning kills more children than any single disease or infection – and more than malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS, dengue and malnutrition combined. More children drown in Vietnam than any other country in South East Asia. The World Health Organisation describes drowning as a ‘silent epidemic’, and also recommends that survival swimming lessons are implemented in countries where there is a high drowning burden.
To date, Hue Help has trained 500 swimming teachers and over 11,000 children across Vietnam in survival swimming and water safety awareness. This year, we aim to train at least another 1,200 children, as well as provide swimming teacher training at a national level in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism.
Hue Children’s Shelter
Due to the nationwide school closures that have been in place since February, the children at Hue Children’s Shelter are currently isolated at the shelter. We have had to suspend our normal education classes, as well as our extra-curricular activities and recreational activities. Our tutors are currently helping the children remotely, and we are in regular contact with the shelter management. The shelter have imposed strict measures for all staff working at the shelter. The shelter is spacious and has a large outdoor area including play facilities and a football pitch, ensuring the children can exercise and play safely without leaving the shelter grounds.
A few weeks ago, I met with Mr Nguyen Dung, Vice Chairman of Thua Thien Hue province. Mr Nguyen Dung offered the full support of Thua Thien Hue People’s Committee to Hue Help’s programmes and approved our work plan through to 2023. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to provide the best support we possibly can to Hue Children’s Shelter and prevent child drowning throughout Vietnam. Despite the current challenges, the need for our programmes has never been greater. Our team will be ready to implement our urgently needed drowning prevention initiatives and educational support for Hue Children’s Shelter as soon as possible. Our team in Vietnam will be posting regular updates on our Facebook page and on Twitter.
This is a challenging and unprecedented time, and I know the impact for many of you will be significant. On behalf of everyone at Hue Help, I would like to thank you for your continuing support and take the opportunity to wish you the best during this very challenging time.