Dear Mr Chairman, please listen to us

VIE20-boys with wood.JPGThe author, Ninh Quynh Trang is 16 years old and is a member of the “Young Journalists” Club of Bao Nhai commune, Bac Ha district, Lao Cai province.

Dear Mr Chairman,

Recently I’ve had flu. It was really scary, but I was lucky that my parents took me to a nearby clinic. This clinic is very clean and has good facilities and medicine. It’s where people come to have health checks and treatment. In my area, the school health service is good too. Many schools have a first aid box containing simple medicines such as peppermint oil, cotton bandages, and pain-killers, and a garden of traditional medicine plants. As far as I know, the schools are given the medicine but we still have to pay for it.

Last month I took part in a ‘Young Journalists’ club meeting with children from different areas of the province. In a discussion about children’s hopes, I heard a lot of different wishes. Children in Muong Khuong wished for healthy and safe playgrounds. Children in Sapa wished for improvements in education. And the children in Van Ban wished for more attention to be paid to the health service.

Their representatives told many true stories. The first concerned a friend who fell while fetching firewood in the forest and stabbed his foot on a sharp branch. By the time he told his parents, his wound was seriously infected. Because his house was far away from the clinic, it took them the whole morning to get there, only to be told that it was too late to keep his leg.

Another girl nearly lost her life due to stomach ache. When she fainted, her family didn’t know what to do. They invited a conjurer to do rituals because they thought it was a ghost from the forest wanting to take her away. Fortunately, her teacher heard about it and took her to the clinic in time.

We laughed when our friends told us about the conjurer, but we were shocked at the people’s lack of knowledge. They could die if they don’t get immediate treatment. We are so lucky to have good clinics in our hometowns. One child asked why they didn’t ask the local authorities and government for support. A local staff member said: “Although we’ve asked for a clinic building, or at least a doctor, many times, we haven’t had a response.” I feel really frustrated. A good healthcare service should be available to all. It is as essential as food and education.

People in my hometown have a high awareness of everything. There are posters and leaflets warning us about illnesses such as H1N1, H5N1, trachoma and cholera on school walls and on the streets. In addition, medicine is sent to hospitals and clinics. We are very thankful for this.

I tell myself that I will take white-blouse heroes* as my idol. But though once I thought all doctors were good, now I think many are not. Why? Because they do many selfish things such as charge people a higher price than they should – even though they’re paid to help sick people. Also, at some clinics, the doctors are as cold as their injections and knives.  I think doctors should have both professional skills and professional ethics.

Sir, every year in my school we are given medicine and injections. Some students cry, but many of us are happy because we know we are taken good care of. But what about children who live far away from a clinic? No matter whether they go to school or not, are they offered the same health service? Are they given medicine? Do they have health insurance cards?

I hope the day is coming when all communes** and villages have small houses with the red-cross symbol on them.

Thank you very much for your precious time. I wish you health and happiness to do your job well.

Yours sincerely,

* White-blouse heroes – dedicated medical heroes

**Commune – the third-level administrative unit in Vietnam

KEY FACTS: HEALTHCARE PROVISION IN VIETNAM

  • Vietnam has either met or is on track towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals on children’s health.
  • The country’s consistently high immunisation coverage eradicated polio in 2000 and maternal and neonatal tetanus in 2005. Measles incidence has plunged by 95 per cent since 1990.
  • Nearly 75 per cent of deaths for children over one year of age are due to injury, according to the Viet Nam Multi-Centre Injury Survey.
  • Vietnam is undertaking health financing reform with a view to achieve universal coverage of health insurance within the coming years. To date, about half of the population is covered with some type of health insurance or prepayment.

Sources: UNICEF web page (2010): ‘Vietnam-The Children in Vietnam’; Ekman, Björn et al (2008) ‘Health insurance reform in Vietnam: a review of recent developments and future challenges’, Health Policy and Planning 23.4: 1–12

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