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Ethnic groups lack quality healthcare, education

Update: August, 15/2012 - 09:32

 

La Hu ethnic people in Bum To Commune in the northern moutainous province of Lai Chau's Muong Te District receive medical care at the communal health station. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tung
HA NOI — More than 86 per cent of ethnic people of working age are untrained. This is one of the main obstacles limiting the development of mountainous areas, said Ksor Phuoc, president of National Assembly's Ethnic Council yesterday.

Phuoc was speaking at a forum to develop human resources among tribal people and others living in mountainous areas.

The meeting involved policy makers and experts from international organisations.

Phuoc said improving the quality of human resources in ethnic areas was a key step in meeting requirements for national development.

Statistics from the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs revealed high illiteracy rates existed among ethnic people, especially in the northern uplands (12.7 per cent) and Central Highland areas (11.3 per cent).

In ethnic and mountainous areas, 70 per cent of people work on farms. The rest work in industry, services and the trading sector. This compares to the rest of the nation, where 51.9 of workers are on farms.

Not only are many ethnic people untrained and illiterate, but many are also said to have limited stamina. There is high rate of malnutrition in ethnic children, especially in northern upland areas – 26 per cent – and central highland areas – more than 27 per cent. The average rate of the country is less than 20 per cent.

The death ratio of children under one year old is also high. In some northern and central highland provinces, the death rate is double or triple the national average. At Lai Chau it is 47.7 per cent, Dien Bien 39.7 per cent, Ha Giang 37.5 per cent and Kon Tum 38.2 per cent.

Life expectancy of ethnic people is also several years lower than the national average of 72.8 years.

Lo Van Thien, a Thai tribal member from northern Yen Bai Province's Van Chan District, said he was illiterate, so he allowed his four children to attend school. However, two of them dropped out because his house was far from school and they wanted to help him earn money.

He said the monthly tuition fees and cost of providing food at boarding school made it hard for him.

Dr Phan Van Hung, deputy Minister and vice-chairman of the Committee for ethic Minority Affairs said the high poverty rate among many ethnic groups was mainly to blame for high malnutrition and illiteracy.

Pratibha Mehta, United Nations Resident Co-ordinator, said while ethnic groups constituted only 14 per cent of the population, they comprised half of those living in chronic poverty.

Hung said nearly 50 per cent of people in ethnic areas were living under the poverty line and had little access to health care. He said many children were not fully fed and became thin, weak and vulnerable to disease.

He said 50 per cent of health centres in some communes had limited facilities and 60 per cent of commune-level health stations had no doctors.

Difficult transport conditions also hindered them from attending proper health centres. So, nearly 40 per cent of ethnic people in the northern uplands and 20 per cent of those in the Central Highlands treated diseases and injuries themselves.

Hung said farm work, language barriers and tough travelling conditions caused children to drop out of school, leading to high rate of illiteracy, he said.

And vocational training centres failed to offer programmes based on the demand of labour markets.

Thien said no one in his locality wanted to go to vocational training because many could not find work after two years of training.

He said job-promotion centres promised to offer trainees jobs, however, the pay was so low it couldn't even buy food for a family.

Phuoc said it was necessary to address shifting cultivation and uncontrolled migration by establishing centralised housing units with room for 40 households each.

He said it would also help to popularise the Vietnamese language before children attended primary school. However, bi-lingual classes should be the norm for ethnic students between grades one and four, he said.

Phuoc also said the State should help ethnic students with tuition fees and accommodation.

And the development of vocational training must be combined with the demands of the local labour market.

Pratibha Mehta said the quality of health services should be enhanced, and technology used to improve water supplies and sanitation.

She said ethnic service providers, including doctors, nurses and teachers, could help reduce barriers and ensure their own people received better health treatment and education.

She suggested more innovation could be used to reach ethnic people in remote areas. This could include exploring tele-services in health and education as had been done in India and Bhutan.

Nguyen Tuan Hung, deputy director of personnel under the health ministry, said it was necessary to enhance preferential and allowance mechanisms to attract well-qualified graduates to work in remote areas. — VNS

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