The Ministry of Health and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on April 23 launched Circular No. 7, which defines the criteria, responsibilities and duties of village-based health workers, including ethnic minority midwifes.

According to Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Viet Tien, the maternal and infant fatality rate in mountainous areas is 3-4 times higher than those in the delta regions. Over 50 percent of women in Lai Chau, Dien Bien and Lao Cai provinces give birth at home.

Tien said health workers, especially those involved in maternity and infant care in mountainous and ethnic minority areas, are always in short supply.

Rough terrain, different customs and cultures, lack of equipment and appropriate policies hinder their work, he added.

Training village-based midwifes reduces the fatality rate of women and babies in mountainous and hard-to-reach regions.

The newly issued circular officially recognises ‘village-based midwife’ as a type of health worker at a communal level, entitled to training and pay. It manifests the strong commitment of the Vietnamese Government to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of minimising maternal and infant deaths.

About 1,300 village-based midwives have received training since 1998. This labour force, however, does not meet reality’s demands.

At the meeting, representatives from provinces shared experiences on how to train and use midwifes to improve the health of mothers and children in mountainous areas.

Accordingly, it is necessary to strengthen the healthcare system and equip health workers with midwifery skills.

UNFPA Representative Mandeep K. O’Biren said the model of training village-based health workers, including ethnic minority midwives, and their official roles in the system should be expanded to mountainous and difficult areas.

By successfully carrying out this work, Vietnam can achieve the MDG on health in ethnic minority groups, both in rural and urban areas, she added./.