During the opening remarks, Prof. Dr. Tran Van Thuan - Vice Minister of Health, stated: “In recent years, thanks to the active participation and investment of the Party and the State, the support of Ministries/Sectors, the committees and authorities at all levels, the international organizations, and the effort of the officers in the health sector, Viet Nam has made remarkable progress in maternal and child healthcare. The maternal mortality ratio has fallen sharply. However, Viet Nam continues to face challenges due to substantial disparities in health outcomes, and maternal and child mortality rates among different regions and ethnic minorities. The provision of healthcare for local people in mountainous and remote areas remains a pressing concern. Under such circumstances, establishing a network of village-based ethnic minority midwives in impoverished areas can be a temporary yet effective solution to removing the geographical, cultural, and economic barriers that have hindered ethnic women from accessing prenatal care, safe delivery, and postnatal care services.”
Established in the 1990s, the network of village-based midwives has made a remarkable contribution to the maternal and child healthcare program in areas highly populated by ethnic minorities, especially in reducing the maternal and neonatal mortality rates. The village midwives provide important healthcare counselling to local communities using their own languages, as well as delivering essential maternal care to the villagers. A qualified village-based midwife has at least completed a six-month training programme by the Ministry of Health. With practical knowledge and skills gained via training at hospitals, the midwives are able to provide care for women during pregnancy and childbirth, ensure safe delivery, detect maternal and neonatal complications, utilize basic life-saving skills, and provide prompt referrals. With strong investment from the Government and support from international and national organizations to date, 3,077 village-based midwives have been trained nation-wide.
Although Viet Nam has issued policies to sustain and develop the network of village-based midwives, the implementation of those policies is inconsistent among local communities. Many localities have not allocated sufficient budgets for their work, thus hindering the network's operation. According to the reports from localities, as of January 2023, 1,528 trained village-based midwives have stopped working due to lack of financial support. At the moment, only 911 village-based midwives are eligible for financial support and 732 of them are also working as village-based healthcare workers.
“There is a continued, and urgent need for maternal health and survival to remain a high priority on the country’s health and development agenda. To sustain the excellent progress Viet Nam has made over the past decades, further efforts are needed to ensure that all mothers, no matter their ethnicity or where they come from, have healthy pregnancies and skilled birth attendance. The village-based midwives in mountainous and remote areas are a key asset in the primary healthcare system. The retention and expansion of the village-based midwife network can play a critical role in improving maternal health outcomes, saving the lives of mothers and their newborns,” said Lesley Miller, UNICEF Deputy Representative.
Participating in the advocacy conference are 200 delegates from Ministries, national agencies, People’s Committees, People’s Councils, the health sector, ethnic minorities in some provinces, Miss Ethnic Vietnam 2022 Nong Thuy Hang, TV Host Minh Trang and especially 30 village-based midwives representing over 3,000 midwives nationwide as well media agencies. The participants discussed policies related to maternal and childcare in disadvantaged areas and shared local experiences to support, sustain and expand the network of village-based midwives. The delegates at the Conference together signed a banner with the message ‘Joining hands in implementing policies supporting village-based midwives, for the health of mothers and children from ethnic minorities and mountainous regions’ to express their wish for policies in support of village-based midwives to be fully and promptly implemented./.