“A Chance for Children to Develop Equally” is the theme of the Month of Action for Children this year, scheduled to get underway in Ninh Binh province on May 15.

The Head of the Department for Child Care and Protection under the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), Nguyen Hai Huu, told reporters in Hanoi on April 29 that the annual event aims to increase the responsibility of both society and families to care for children and to ensure their protection and rights.

Huu added that during the month, which is to run through until June 30, his agency will organise visits and free medical treatment for children in special difficulties and hold a national conference to reward kind-hearted people who have contributed greatly to child care and protection.

He named the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Plan International-Vietnam, Save the Children in Vietnam and the World Vision and the Child Fund, which his department will work with during the month to promote children’s involvement in society and increase public awareness on children’s rights.

“We will work together to hold writing and painting contests for children to express their views on climate change. We will also co-sponsor programmes to campaign to prevent violence against children, combat juvenile crime and child abuse as well as intensify the campaigns to fight HIV/AIDS among children and child injuries,” said the senior child care official.

Vietnam was the first country in Asia and second in the world to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and introduced a 10 year national programme of action for children which ended this year.

As a result, the country has managed to provide free medical check-ups and treatments for all children under six and allowances for almost every disadvantaged child. The number of children who have access to schooling, sports and entertainments is also rising sharply.

However, challenges still remain as Vietnam is still listed amongst the 20 nations to have the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world, despite a substantial drop over the past decade.

Child abuse, injuries and crimes are also rising and only a limited number of HIV/AIDS-infected children receive care.

In an effort to ensure that children can grow up on an equal basis with each other, especially those in special difficulties and in remote areas, the Department for Child Care and Protection is drafting a national programme of action for children for the period 2011-2015.

The scheme calls for further investment from the Government and more social involvement in child care and protection. It also emphasises the need to adjust the country’s legal system and policies to international standards.

It is also necessary to develop a network of child care organisations from central to local levels, the draft adds.

MOLISA has reported that the number of children under 16 years old is in excess of 23 million, accounting for almost 27 percent of Vietnam ’s population./.