Located in the centre of South-East Asia, Viet Nam forms and S-shaped strip on the eastern seaboard of the Indochinese Peninsula, linking to the large Asian continent and looking out on the Pacific Ocean. Viet Nam stretches 1650 km from North to South.
Viet Nam has traditionally been an agricultural. The agricultural sector accounts for 70% of the labour force and about one-third of exports, although its share in the GDP fell below 30% in 1993 and will continue to decline as industrialization proceeds (EIU, 1996).
The total population has almost doubled from 1965 to 1995 and is projected to reach more than 110 million by 2025. The increase in energy requirements of the population reflects the growing needs. The rural population is experiencing rapid growth. Over the period 1965-2025, the urban population, although smaller, is projectd to account for a continually increasing proportion of the total energy requirements.
Between 1997 and 2001, average daily per capita Dietary Energy Supplies (DES) increased from 2363 to 2533 kcal. FAO estimated that the DES did not cover the requirements of 25% of the population in 1969-71 and in 1990-92, but it is important to underline that during wartime this proportion was higher (FAO, 1996).
In 2009, food production increased over the previous year. Grain production reached 43.33 million tons, up 24 000 tons over 2008, of which rice output reached 38.9 million tons, up 116 000 tons. In particular, rice exports reached record levels with the highest export volume to date: 5.95 million tons, earning USD 2.66 billion.
In Viet Nam the nutritional status of children is poor. The prevalence of underweight among children under 5 years of age is 40%, that of stunting is 36 % and of wasting is 10%. According to WHO criteria these rates indicate important public health problems.
Adults are also affected by malnutrition as indicated by the proportion of individuals with a BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2 which is approximately 40% for both men and women. The average BMI value was similar (19.1 kg/m2) for both sexes and only a negligible of the population was overweight of obese.
Food consumption data show no improvement in terms of energy intake and a slight increase in the intake of protein and fat, between 1990 and 1995. however, there are important differences in food patterns between the highlands, midlands and mountain areas and the problem of food insecurity seems to be more important in the mountain and midlands rural areas.
During the last decade, there has been a very significant improvement in the control of micronutrient deficiencies. In the 1980s, the prevalence of xerophthalmia was 0.7% among children under five years, indicating a high prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency. Following the implementation of a national supplementation programme, the prevalence of night-blindness was reduced from 0.37% in 1985-88 to 0.05% among children less than six years 1994. Great success was also achieved in controlling iodine deficiency anaemia remains a burden that affects a large segment of the population: 45% of children under 5 years of age, 40% of non-pregnant women and 53% pregnant women are anaemic.
Control programmes for infectious diseases, better distribution of the food available, a better access to public health services as well as a reduction in the unde-five mortality rate are required to improve the overall nutritional situation.
Main focus areas covered in FBDGs, 2006-2010
- Eat diversified meals with a wide variety of foods
- Initiate breastfeeding within 30 minutes after birth and continue exclusive breatfeeding in the first six months. Give children weaning food properly and breastfeed them until 18-24 months old.
- Eat protein-rich foods in a good balance between vegetable and animal sources. Increase fish intake.
- Eat appropriate amount of fats/oils with a good combination.
- Have milk and dairy products properly for each age.
- Do not use too much salt. Use iodized salt in food preparation.
- Eat more vegetables, tubers and fruits every day.
- Select and use safe and healthy foods and drinks. Use safe water in food preparation.
- Drink enough boiled water every day (safe/clean water). Limit the intake of alcoholic beverage and soft drinks.
- Follow a healthy and active lifestyle. Take regular physical exercise Maintain appropriate weight. Abstain from smoking.
Food-based dietary guidelines have been developed using a multisectoral approach – health/nutrition, education, agriculture and sociology and others. The FBDGs have been developed and updated every five years. FBDGs in Viet Nam were developed in 1995 and have been updated three times: 1995-2000; 2001-2005; 2006-2010. Presently, FBDGs for 2011-2015 are being developed.
Multiple approaches are used for dissemination of the FBDGs: strengthening commitment from policy makers and stakeholders by advocacy activities; socio-mobilization; strengthening the involvement of mass media agencies. Official dissemination is done through health, education, agriculture and the mass media system. An effectiveness implementation network from central to grass-root level has also been set up for effective dissemination. Moreover, communication campaigns are organized annually such as “breastfeeding week”, “nutrition and development week”, and “micronutrient day”.
Dr Trinh Hong Son - New Delhi, India, 6-9 December 2010