Building a Road to Safer Motherhood in Viet Nam

30 October 2007
Author: UNFPA

Hoa Binh, Viet Nam — The road to Hoa Binh City curls around a series of mountains and bamboo forests. At first glance, there is nothing extraordinary about this rural road. Motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians meander down it; occasionally a car rushes by or a buffalo causes a blockade.

UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador Yuko Arimori (right) at the Paediatric Intensive Care Department of Hoa Binh Provincial Hospital with the hospital's director, Dr. Duong (left). Photo: UNFPA/Dao Khanh Tung

But for the people of the Da Bac District of Viet Nam’s north-western Hoa Binh Province, this road is a lifesaver. Thanks to the road, they can get to the Provincial Hospital in Hoa Binh City in 30 minutes. Before the road was built, with funding from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), the journey took two to three hours, with part of the distance travelled by ferry. In an emergency, the easier route and time saved can make the difference between life and death. Indeed, difficult access to quality health care still kills women who suffer from pregnancy or child birth related complications in geographically hard-to-reach areas of rural Viet Nam.

“Because of this road, people can get the services they need. This kind of road helps people access health care and gives women and babies the chance to live,” said Yuko Arimori, a two-time Olympic marathon medallist and Japanese Goodwill Ambassador for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

“It gives me great hope to see all these premature babies – the children of women transferred here from the districts – receiving quality care here, at this hospital, that benefits from the development efforts of different agencies,” Ms. Arimori added, speaking at the Hoa Binh Provincial Hospital during a trip to Viet Nam.

The facilities at this, the main hospital in the province, were recently completely upgraded with support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, while UNFPA has supported efforts to train and improve the skills of health workers at all levels of the health system in Hoa Binh. UNFPA has also provided essential equipment, including the incubators needed by premature babies to survive the first few days of their lives.

“Working to improve the lives and circumstances of people through development is like training for a marathon – it requires patience and commitment to reach your goals. Having a supportive environment where the efforts of different agencies are mutually reinforcing is crucial to ensuring development is sustainable,” Ms. Arimori said.

During her five-day visit to Viet Nam, Ms. Arimori, is visiting different UNFPA and Japanese development projects. Ms. Arimori, 40, is the founder of the non-profit organization Heart of Gold, which encourages hope and courage through sports for people with disabilities. The organization supports self-help activities of war victims in Cambodia and other countries. Ms. Arimori has been a Goodwill Ambassador for UNFPA since 2002, serving as an active advocate on youth, gender and reproductive health issues to the Japanese public.

— Laura Vinha and Akiko Takai

Viet Nam
Population : 97.3 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24

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