In 1975, at the end of the Vietnam War, so much blood had been shed that the country struggled to get back on its feet. Handicap International today supports the population in the final phase of reconstruction and implements disability prevention projects, in particular in the field of road safety, and projects to improve access to rehabilitation services.
© Layla Aerts / Handicap International
Handicap International began work in Vietnam to help the many people with disabilities, injured people, and the victims of bombs, anti-personnel landmines and explosive remnants of war. In 1989, the Vietnamese Ministry for Health asked the organisation to set up the first orthopaedic workshop in Hanoi. Handicap International later opened two more orthopaedic fitting workshops in 1993 and 1994, one in Dalat and one in the province of Dong Ha.
Over the following years, at the request of its Vietnamese partners – in particular different government ministries and provincial institutions - Handicap International provided technical advice on disability prevention and physical rehabilitation projects. The organisation was therefore able to ensure the sustainability of the work carried out in the fields of rehabilitation, socio-economic inclusion, and human rights. This meant consolidating methods, strategies and services offered in conjunction with the Vietnamese authorities, to allow them to appropriate and implement them themselves.
The organisation is now focusing the very youngest members of the population. Since 2006, it has been providing early screening and care for disabilities in newborns. In order to do this, it has implemented a specific care system in the provinces of Khanh Hoa, Hue and then Quang Tri. The system involves detecting congenital deformities and monitoring babies more closely so as to reduce disabling after-effects.
Handicap International is also working to meet another challenge, that of reducing the number of road accident victims, which is very high in Vietnam, particularly amongst the young. To this end, the organisation has launched the Safe Roads 4 Youth project, which involves holding awareness-raising sessions in schools on the risks of drink-driving and giving first aid to accident victims.
Lastly, the organisation helps improve the living conditions of people with brain damage (brain injury, cerebral palsy, and the like), by ensuring they are able to access quality rehabilitation services.
Nearly 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, the population is still suffering the consequences of those dark and dreadful times. The country is now looking to the future, but there are many obstacles in its path.
The long Vietnam War, which came after two decades of turmoil following the decolonisation of Vietnam in 1945, caused the country very serious harm. Between 1964 and 1973, around 2 million people, mostly civilians, fell victims to sustained bombardment by the Americans.
The number of people in Vietnam today who were injured during these armed conflicts is very high. Significant swathes of the land still bear the scars of the fighting, and restoring the environment is a huge challenge for the country.
15% of the population is currently living with a disability. As well as the after-effects of past conflicts, there are a number of additional causes of disability: the number of road accidents is rising, as is the number of occupational accidents, in factories or on the country’s numerous building sites. Furthermore, many people are affected by congenital deformities.
Thanks to the support from the State and the efforts of the health sector, Vietnam has made good progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, in particular in the reduction of infant mortality and mortality during labour. The country is now focusing on the health of deprived populations, the prevention of disability, and the socio-economic inclusion of people with disabilities.