Vietnam’s programme on population and family planning is coping with new challenges in order to maintain the country’s fertility reduction trend and improve the quality of human resources.

The remark was made at a seminar on policies on population and health care for mothers and children being held by the National Assembly’s Committee for Social Affairs in Hanoi on July 30-31.

The seminar listed a number of challenges, including the gap in fertility rates between regions, the gender imbalance among births, the high abortion rate, and the high malnutrition rate among children in mountainous, remote and isolated areas.

Tran Thi Van, assistant to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Chief Representative to Vietnam, said the country has achieved 15 out of 21 important targets set in its national strategy on population for the 2001-2010 period.

According to her, the country’s fertility rate fell to below the replacement level, and the use of contraceptive methods increased to 68.8 percent. At the same time, the past ten years have seen a sharp decrease in deaths from pregnancy and childbirth, as well as malnutrition among children.

She underlined priorities for working with population issues, including the development of social, educational and health care services, finding solutions to internal migration and urbanisation-related issues, and providing social services to the increasing population in urban areas.

She also stressed the need to take advantage of opportunities provided by the “golden population structure” period, where the working-age population out-number dependants, as well as correct the gender imbalance among births, and improve reproductive health care services.

Duong Quoc Trong, Acting General Director of the General Department on Population and Family Planning of Vietnam, shared this view, affirming that the country’s target is to decrease the gender imbalance among births, which is forecast to increase to a rate of 115 boys per 100 girls and also to take advantage of the “golden population” structure, and adapt to an ageing population.

For population quality, he said the country set targets of increasing the average life expectancy and improving people’s body stature and physical strength.

By 2020, the country plans to push the rate of new-borns with birth deformities to below 1.5 percent and the malnutrition rate of under-five children to below 10 percent, and increase life expectancy to above 75, as well as decrease the number of people becoming handicapped annually and the mortality rate of mothers, and children under-five.

According to Dr. Giang Thanh Long from the National University of Economics, Vietnam will experience the “golden population structure” in the 2010-2040 period.

He said the country should prioritise programmes for reproductive health care, children’s nutrition, improvement of education and training, and creation of jobs, particularly for young people./.