Despite making a great deal of progress, reducing poverty levels remains an urgent priority and new poverty reduction strategies are needed as current approaches are losing their impact.

This is one of the key recommendations in a report titled, ‘Looking forward: Challenges to Poverty Reduction in Vietnam’, published by Oxfam and ActionAid on May 31, ahead of the mid-term Consultative Group meeting in Quang Tri early next week.

The report provides an update on the project that monitors poverty in rural communities from 2007 to 2011.

During 2007 to 2011 Vietnam found it extremely difficult time to reduce poverty levels. This has been due to high inflation, the global financial crisis and economic recession, natural disasters and epidemics. All these events have affected Vietnam ’s entire population, but particularly the poor.

Nevertheless, the poverty rate continues to fall. Major government investments have provided poor communities with better infrastructures; increased the economic opportunities; generated more non-agricultural jobs; and provided better housing, educational, health and agricultural services.

The positive changes can be seen in the 600 sample households, with 55 percent saying that their lives have improved over the last five years.

However, many challenges still lie ahead despite a number of government reforms from 2007 promoting further economic development and lifting many poor households out of poverty. Nearly 40 percent of people in the areas monitored have not seen or are not sure of any changes, while nine percent even felt that their lives had got worse in the last five years.

Chronic poverty is becoming increasingly concentrated, especially in ethnic minority areas; this is shown while comparing multidimensional poverty criteria between ethnic minority groups.

Despite the government’s poverty reduction efforts, findings from the monitoring show alarming figures - 16 percent of families are still short of food up to nearly five months a year, one in four children under five are malnourished, 42 percent of all surveyed households still have no access to clean water and four out of five families still live without sanitation, according to the report.

A significant number of people are vulnerable to falling back into poverty due to high inflation, the global economic crisis, natural disasters and epidemics. These are the risks, old and new, that Vietnam has to face in order to reduce the poverty rate.

Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organisations networking together across 92 countries, as part of a global movement for change, to build a future free from the injustice of poverty. In Vietnam , Oxfam is recognised as one of the leading international non-governmental organisations, especially in rural development, disaster and humanitarian response, developing civic society, ethnic minorities and empowering women.

ActionAid is an international agency that fights poverty in over 40 countries, supporting poor people to end poverty and injustice.-VNA