Viet Nam News
QUẢNG NGÃI — Hồ Văn Dé, a 54-year-old man in a small and remote village in the central province of Quảng Ngãi, is known as the father of the largest family in Trà Quân Commune.
Dé and his wife Hồ Thị Phương have 10 children. The oldest is 21 and the smallest is six. The crowded household lives in a space barely reaching 50sq.m , which is always dark and has almost no furniture besides two small, old beds and some mats on the ground.
Phương and Dé can hardly remember the names and birth dates of all their children. To keep the information, Dé wrote the names and birth dates of 10 children on an old satellite dish. Each time a guest comes over, he’d point them to the satellite instead of introducing his children one by one.
“It’s easier to remember their names and birth dates this way,” he told Nhân Dân (People) newspaper.
As the poorest household in the commune, working on their rice field is still Dé and Phương’s primary means of making money to raise their pack of little children. The older ones are either going to school or have dropped out to seek jobs.
“We haven’t got enough room for all the children. They sleep anywhere they want to,” Phương said.
“Two have died. I don’t know if they died of diseases or hunger,” she said.
Dé’s family is the largest in Trà Quân commune. But his record might eventually be broken by his neighbours, who have some seven and eight children.
The more the poorer
Hồ Thị Huệ, a 40-year-old woman, is preparing a meal for her seven children in a small dark house. The meal includes boiled banana flower, wild bamboo shoots with chilli salt and rice.
“We eat whatever we have. When we have jobs, the children take care of each other. Two of them have dropped out of school to work in the field,” she said.
Huệ said the small rice field was not enough to support the children, so she and her husband did whatever work they were offered by villagers. All the property the couple had was three worn-out beds and a pile of dusty plastic chairs.
She said she gave birth to her first child when she was 25, and had seven children within 10 years. The children, aged between five and 13, look about the same height due to poor nutrition.
Asked why she had so many children, Huệ said that other households had many children, even many more than hers.
Trà Quân Commune is located in the mountain peaks and is 20 kilometres away from Tây Trà District. In the three villages of Trà Ong, Trà Bao and Trà Xuông, half of the total of 444 households have more than six children.
All of these households are living in poverty, leaving children impoverished and often absent from classes.
Hồ Văn Tiên and Hồ Thị Tranh have nine children. The smallest has just turned four. Tranh said she had become scared of getting pregnant after she had her sixth child. She even went to the local health clinic for an intrauterine device, but soon took it out as she felt hurt and sick.
“I had to work to get money to raise my children, so I decided to take it out. After taking it out, I got pregnant again and again,” she said.
Hồ Văn Sơn, a father of eight children, said he felt ashamed when advised to undergo a vasectomy many times by local population officials.
“I’m afraid of having neurological impacts, and having bad health effects,” he said.
Hồ Thị Hải, a reproductive healthcare and population official of Trà Quân Commune, said many programmes have been implemented to educate local people about birth control methods, but villagers seemed to have not overcome their embarassment, even anxiety, about the issue.
Hải called October the season of birth of local people, as rainy weather prevented them from working in the field and forced them to stay at home most days, leading to unwanted pregnancy.
Nguyễn Thị Bích Thuỷ, vice director of Tây Trà District’s Population and Family Planning Centre, said the biggest challenge was that local people usually avoided seeing and talking to population officials and refused to join healthcare programmes. Thus, large families would keep on ballooning and, inevitably, poorer.
The centre is determined to continue its efforts in educating local people on birth control and reproductive healthcare for local people, against all the odds. — VNS