When the Covid 19 epidemic hit neighboring country China, Vietnam was very quick to take strict measures to contain the virus. Borders were closed, schools were closed, individuals and even communities were put in quarantine and international flights were cancelled. The strategy of the government was very successful and has been internationally recognized. Vietnam has so far managed to keep numbers of infections to a minimum and with zero deaths.
(Picture to the right. CoVid-19 Information poster in Ho Chi Minh city, photo: Pham Thi Xuan Huong).
The Covid 19 situation impacted on NMAV’s work in many ways. Our local partners needed to change the focus of their activities to address the epidemic. Local authorities, from province to commune level, were instructed by central government to inform and prepare their communities for the covid 19 epidemic.
Mass organization like Women Union, Youth Union, Farmer Union and Labour Federation have been proactive in providing masks, hand sanitizer and communicating about the situation of COV 19. According to reports from our local partners, 80% of local people have had access to information updates on the situation of Covid 19 and how to prevent the disease through daily broadcasting on district and communal loudspeaker system. Local people also have had information through mobile loudspeakers and posters at public areas such as building, markets and ferries.
Strict regulations on gatherings since February stopped Mission Alliance’s capacity building activities from the beginning of 2020. People were not allowed to get together for trainings or meetings. Also, because schools closed, it was not possible to do the planned interventions for school children and teachers. However, the country, together with social organizations and enterprises gave their helping hand and provided emergency support to vulnerable people.
Instead of the planned activities, NMAV refocused our work from long term development projects to more emergency support activities during this time. The emergency activities were focused on:
1) Prevention (information, hand washing, hand sanitizer, masks etc)
2) Emergency food packages
3) Cash support
The main activities related to Covid19 prevention was to provide free information brochures, posters and slogans at public areas, face masks, sanitizers for local peoples; implement regular broadcast on loudspeaker system or on mobile loudspeaker at crowded public areas. At one point, the staff of our microfinance operation, MOM, also made a corona handwashing dance online, to inform and entertain their 44 000 microcredit clients.
MOM-staff with the corona handwashing dance
NMAV has also supported schools with handwashing and sanitization equipment, so that they could reopen safely when allowed to do so in May this year. The prevention activities were planned together with local authorities and complemented government activities.
Emergency food packages has been an important contribution for the poorest households, who lost their income due to the pandemic. These packages contain rice, knorr, fish sauce, sugar, soya sauce, cooking oil and hand washing liquid Some may also have lost their crops because of the current severe drought in the Mekong Delta, thus suffering a double burden over these past months. Read more the drought.
Cash assistance has been important to help poor families get back on their feet. It is necessary to assess what should be the right level of assistance, to make sure the support is just enough to restart business or farming. NMAV has discussed and agreed the level of support together with local partners and decided that different target groups had slightly different needs. NMAV together with local partners have a solid system for assessing who is most at need.
The Norwegian Mission Alliance Vietnam is a long term development organization, and it is only in critical situations that we provide short term emergency assistance. Over the past years, this has happened when there has been severe drought in the Mekong Delta, and also during the covid 19 pandemic. To mitigate risk during emergency response, NMAV work closely with partners to develop beneficiary selection process and criteria, purchasing procedures and distribution process. NMAV will also conduct spot checks like home visit and review the inventory list. To avoid conflict in the communities, the list of beneficiaries will be public at commune and village level some days prior to the delivery. If local farmers have any issues they claim to head of village or go up to commune people committee.
Children with disabilities supported by Mission Alliance during the corona crisis (photo Nguyễn Đăng Khoa)
During May 2020 the schools in Vietnam opened up and normal activities are starting again in our projects areas. The corona crisis has showed the importance of continue the long term development work helping poor people and local communities to prepare for future crisis - and to be more resilent.
By senior programadvisor Guro Nesbakken
Photo: NMAV staff and local partners