Following a visit to Viet Nam, singer-songwriter Katy Perry, a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has called for an increased focus on children being left behind in one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies.
Ms. Perry was in rural Ninh Thuan province, among the poorest and most remote regions of Viet Nam, where she visited UNICEF programmes aimed at ending exclusion for children with disabilities, and also saw the organization’s work in child survival, education and early childhood development; water, sanitation and hygiene; and climate change, UNICEF said in a press release.
“All the children I met have incredible dreams. We have to help them fight for those dreams,” Ms. Perry said.
“Investing in the most disadvantaged to give them a fair chance in life is not only the right thing to do, it is the best way to break the cycle of poverty and drastically improve children’s health, education and well-being,” she added.
In addition to poverty, many of the country’s most vulnerable children and families must also deal with the effects of climate change. A lack of access to clean water and sanitation, combined with long periods of drought, means children are even more prone to malnutrition and disease, the agency noted.
UNICEF stressed the importance of ensuring, as Viet Nam advances economically, that trade and business development does not displace investment in children’s well-being and development, particularly in hard-to-reach ethnic minority areas.
Ms. Perry’s visit to Ninh Thuan province, one of the poorest and most remote regions of Viet Nam, aims to draw attention to critical issues impacting the millions of children who are not benefitting equally from prosperity, such as the majority of those living in the province. Many of the children told her that they didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of their parents.
“UNICEF works to ensure that every child, urban or rural, rich or poor, has a chance to thrive, to grow and to contribute to their families and communities as well as to have the opportunity to shape the world that we live in,” Ms. Perry said.
Across all its programmes in Viet Nam, UNICEF supports the Government and other partners to pursue an equal agenda for all children in the country and especially for children from ethnic minorities and low-income families, children with disabilities, and children at risk of exploitation and abuse.
“On my first day in Ninh Thuan, I visited a school that provides children with disabilities the support they need to thrive alongside their peers. I also visited a junior high school mainly made up of students from ethnic minorities who were empowered by the opportunity to have access to higher education,” Ms. Perry said.
In some regions of Viet Nam, half of the children live in absolute poverty, and one in every five does not go to school. About 50 per cent of children in these regions do not receive adequate health care, leading to high numbers of child deaths from preventable diseases every day, UNICEF said.