2020 brought with it a unique set of challenges in the form of the pandemic. The central region of Vietnam was also hit by devastating floods. Children under fifteen, who bear the highest risks of drowning became more vulnerable being away from school, without supervision and in disaster prone areas. Understanding the increased risks and the logistical challenges posed by COVID-19, Global Health Advocacy Incubator, (GHAI) and in-country partners quickly shifted the focus of activities to alert communities about risks through urgent communications efforts. Hundreds of program managers were trained at the provincial and national level. Strategic planning shifted to virtual platforms.
Vietnam became one of the first few countries that overcame the worst of the pandemic and resumed most of its services in July 2020. Building on the success of the first phase of the Drowning Prevention program, the intervention expanded from eight provinces to twelve provinces facing the highest burden of child drowning deaths in the country. Despite the pandemic, over 4,000 children have successfully been trained on survival swim and there is greater interest and commitment to expand the program at the national and provincial levels.
This year, GHAI and the World Health Organization (WHO) also organized a virtual side meeting during the United Nations General Assembly chaired by the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Labor – Invalids and Social Affairs. The Vice Minister shared the success story of the child Drowning Prevention program in Vietnam, the partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies and the work towards transition to government ownership. In less than three years, the program has seen tremendous buy in and integration in local and national government plans and budgets. The event turned into a celebration of the early achievements in Vietnam. For the organizers, it provided hope that in the not-too-distant future, greater scale and sustainability was possible.
For a snapshot of the year in review, please watch this video.