Amidst the verdant hills and remote corners of Vietnam’s rural regions, the growth that has transformed the economy in this part of Southeast Asia in recent decades can be hard to see. Undernourishment among children still results in stunting – even in cities too where overweight/obesity is also on the rise.
UN data shows that almost 10% of the population in Vietnam live in poverty, and this is reflected in malnutrition rates and stunted growth. Smallholder farmers are usually considered the most at risk of poverty and food insecurity. But the outcome of Vietnam’s last COVID-19 lockdown was a staggering unemployment rate that might have pushed up to five million people into poverty – especially the many holding insecure jobs in the informal sector.
There’s been no lack of examples of civil society reacting to the lockdown emergencies. Vietnamese businessman Hoang Tuan Anh, local media reported, even created a network of rice ATMs for the poor who suffered from reduced household incomes during the pandemic, distributing thousands of tonnes of rice. Other private initiatives have sprouted among poor neighborhoods.