Sunday, April 18, 2010

Vietnam Society in Brief 18/4

Sunday, 18/04/201
Source: Vietnam Net

Hanoi to host int’l ministerial conference on pandemic flu

The International Ministerial Conference on Animal and Pandemic Influenza (IMCAPI Hanoi 2010) will be held in Hanoi on April 19-21.

The conference is expected to draw about 150 delegations comprising 700 delegates involved in the agriculture, livestock and health sectors from 77 nations around the world, said a press briefing held by USAID in Hanoi on April 16.

The conference will assess global progress in controlling highly pathogenic avian (A/H5N1) and pandemic flu and experiences and models from different countries. It will also review the global response to the current influenza pandemic.

Participants are expected to discuss and reach an agreement on a consensus ministerial statement that will guide future cooperation and coordination among countries and international organisations in 2010 and beyond.

Avian influenza was reported for the first time in Asia in 2003 and spread to other countries, said Jean Marc Olive, WHO Chief Representative in Vietnam, adding that the disease has to date infected 491 people, resulting in 290 deaths.

The spread of the disease and the number of cases of infection and death is less than in the previous years the disease appeared. It is now reported in only Egypt, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Despite cholera risk, residents still frequenting roadside eateries

While health officials say the recent spate of cholera cases in Ho Chi Minh City have been attributed to contaminated food served by street vendors, most residents continue to eat from such make-shift eateries.

Roadside food stalls are especially abundant in front of city schools, and in the past few weeks at least two students, one in junior high and one in university, contracted the illness after eating food prepared by street vendors near their schools.

Cholera, spread by bacteria in contaminated food and water, can be fatal if left untreated as it causes acute diarrhea and vomiting.

When schools let out, huge crowds of young people descend upon the street eateries, ordering everything from shrimp soup to dried buffalo meat, all prepared on the spot and usually in unhygienic conditions.

Street vendors prepare food with their bare hands, almost never using gloves and potentially contaminating the meals being served.

A motorbike taxi driver in front of one school in the city’s District 3 said he knew of three students from the school who had suffered food poisoning after eating from sidewalk eateries in the area.

Dr. Pham Thi Ngoc Tuyet, head of the Digestive Department at the city’s Children Hospital II, said the hospital had seen an influx of severe diarrhea cases in the past few weeks. Most were students who reported eating food served by street vendors in front of their schools.

The issue of unhygienic food served at street stalls, especially in front of schools, has plagued the city for years, but the local Department of Health says that cracking down on the problem is easier said than done.

Dr. Phan Van Nghiem from the health department said the Government needs to impose stiffer penalties on roadside food vendors and in the meantime, schools should teach students about food health and safety.

Lai Chau suffers severe damage from hail, wind storm

A hail storm and high winds wreaked havoc in the northern province of Lai Chau on April 15 and 16, razing homes and destroying property and crops over a wide area.

The province, which has been experiencing drought conditions for the last several weeks, was hit suddenly in the morning with rain, thunder, hail and whirlwinds, lasting around 30 minutes.

Around 300 rooftops were blown off the homes of Dao and Mong ethnic minority people in the district of Phong Tho and according to some locals, the wind and hailstones were the strongest the community had seen in at least 50 years.

The hail alone caused hundreds of millions of dong in damages to hectares of rice and vegetable crops in the area, while some cattle and water-fowl also died.

The storm also blew off the rooftops and destroyed parts of the Lan Nhi Thang junior high school, also in Phong Tho District.

Vu Xuan Tinh, deputy head of the province’s Irrigation and Storm Prevention Department, said that officials in storm-hit localities would provide support to affected families.

University admits prize winners, team-members

Students who are members of the international Olympic team and national teams of mathematics, informatics, physics and chemistry will be admitted into Ho Chi Minh City University of Science without an entrance exam, said PhD Nguyen Kim Quang, head of the university’s training department.

Students of the national biology team will be automatically admitted to faculties including biology, environmental science, biotechnology, environmental technology, geology and oceanography-hydrometeorology.

The university will also enroll 12 national prize-winning students of mathematics, informatics, physics, chemical and biology. The selected students must have achieved third place or better and scored at least one mark in the university entrance examination.

The information technology faculty of the university will accept students with national encouragement prizes with minimum entrance scores or above, who scored at least one mark in the A group in the entrance examination.

Fresh bird flu outbreak hits Bac Kan

The Department of Health has confirmed two more cases of bird flu in patients from the northern province of Bac Kan’s Cho Moi District, a health official reported April 15.

The two people were taken to hospital in the province in serious condition, said Dr. Nguyen Huy Nga of the Preventive Health and Environment Department.

The patients are from the same village where several other cases of avian influenza were reported earlier, causing concern that the area has become a hotspot for the illness and that human-to-human transmission could potentially occur.

Meanwhile, Dr. Tran Nhu Duong, deputy director of the Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, said the institute recently appointed two groups to conduct an epidemiological investigation of the village.

The groups found that the two latest cases became infected after coming into contact with infected poultry, adding there was no evidence to suggest the patients had contracted the flu from other infected individuals.

Bird flu has claimed two lives in Vietnam so far this year.

In related news, Dr. Nga said four provinces have recently reported cases of cholera. He expressed concern that a large outbreak of the disease could soon occur as the prolonged sweltering weather that Vietnam is experiencing is conducive to development of the cholera bacteria, which causes acute diarrhea and can be fatal if left untreated.

The hot weather has also reduced water levels in lakes and rivers in southern provinces, forcing people to resort to using dirty water sources where the Vibrio cholera bacterium thrives.

In addition, food is more prone to spoilage in hot weather, which can create favorable conditions for cholera to develop.

Health officials advise people to practice good personal hygiene and keep food preparation areas clean. Food should be cooked well and water should be boiled before drinking. People should also wash their hands after using the toilet and before eating or handling food.

Vietnam, Belgium cooperate in running degree courses

The Hanoi University of Agriculture (HUA) in coordination with Belgium’s University of Liege on April 16 announced a training project called International Master in Rural Economics and Sociology (IMARES).

The project aims to strengthen the research, analysis and assessment skills of agricultural engineers who can contribute to rural development policies in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Under the project, 15 scholarships are granted every year to agricultural engineers and teachers to do masters at universities in those three countries.

This project is in the third stage of a cooperation programme between the HUA and Belgium’s University Commission for Cooperation with Developing Countries that began in 1998.

Action Month for Food Hygiene and Safety launched in Hanoi

An ‘Action Month for Food Hygiene and Safety’ was jointly launched in Hanoi on April 16 by the Hanoi Municipal People’s Committee and the Ministry of Health.

The 2010 Action Month for Food Quality, Hygiene and Safety is themed “securing commitments on businesses’ responsibility for food hygiene and safety”.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Deputy PM Nguyen Thien Nhan said food hygiene and safety efforts have not yet achieved the desired results. Many people still have a bad habit of eating unhygienically and many restaurants are not meeting food hygiene and safety standards.

Mr. Nhan put this down to the lack of any inspection system or comprehensive legal and technical guidelines.

PM Nhan asked relevant agencies and people’s committees to cooperate more closely in conducting inspections and encouraging the public to report immediately after discovering any violations.

Food safety and hygiene exhibition held in HCM City

An exhibition on food safety and hygiene opened in Ho Chi Minh City for the first time on April 15.

The exhibition was held by the Vietnam Public Health Associations to draw visitors to standard qualified food of different kinds and raise public awareness on food hygiene.

In one section of the exhibition 50 businesses displayed healthy food and foodstuffs. The Public Health Department’s achievements in food hygiene management were also spotlighted.

During the opening ceremony, an Action Month for Food Safety and Hygiene was also launched. This was a practical way of improving citizen’s knowledge about food safety and hygiene to ensure the quality of life.

Dept. discovers genetically modified food

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are found in more than a third of processed and unprocessed agricultural products sold in HCM City markets and supermarkets, a report by the Department of Science and Technology has revealed.

However, most of them are not labelled as required to indicate they contain GMO, said Tran Thi My Hien, an engineer at the Standard and Quality Monitoring Centre and the lead author of the report.

She said 34 percent of 323 samples taken from 17 markets and supermarkets consisted of GMO elements.

They included 40 percent of corn samples, 26 percent of soybeans, 13 percent of potatoes, and 10 percent of tomatoes.

The GMO elements in half of the corn samples and three fifths of the soybean samples that tested positive could not be identified since available testing methods lag behind GM growth, she said.

"GMO can now be found in seeds, agricultural produce, and processed items… Relevant ministries should issue specific guidelines on sources and labels of GMO products for the sake of both manufacturers and consumers."

Vietnam to host International Biology Olympiad in 2016

Vietnam will host the International Biology Olympiad in 2016.

The government’s Prime Minister office says the Ministry of Education and Training will preside over the event.

Earlier, the PM already approved a plan for Vietnam to host the International Chemistry Olympiad in 2014.

Lawmaking on media, communications mulled over

It is necessary to complete a legal framework for media and communications in Vietnam to create favourable conditions for the development of the media under law, stressed an official from the Ministry of Justice at a seminar held in Hanoi on April 15.

Nguyen Huy Ngat, Director of the ministry’s International Cooperation Department, said that the legal framework will define the concept of social responsibility and the duties of media agencies and reporters.

The seminar aimed to announce the results of a survey on legal frameworks for media and communications undertaken in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Mr Ngat emphasized the need for a legal framework in this area to ensure that the media is under State management and bound to adhere to the law. The development of the media must go hand in hand with good management.

He said the framework must secure the stability of media operations and allow for newly-emerging issues and future developments which are not covered by the current Press Law. It must amend the vague and simplistic regulations of the current law and help boost international cooperation to create favourable conditions for journalists, reporters and media management agencies to exchange experiences.

Northern province, RoK city clinch investment deal

The northern mountain province of Tuyen Quang has signed an investment cooperation deal with a delegation from the RoK city of Anseong, on a working visit there on April 14-15.

At a working session, the provincial People’s Committee Chairman, Do Van Chien, informed the delegation from the Republic of Korea (RoK) of the province’s prioritised projects for foreign investment attraction.

The projects include the Na Hang eco-tourism resort, the My Lam mineral spring resort, the construction of industrial infrastructure for Tuyen Quang township and a programme on the development and application of biological technologies in agriculture and rural development.

Yang Jin Cheol, Anseong’s Acting Mayor, spoke highly of Tuyen Quang’s potential, saying that the province and his city have laid an important foundation for bilateral cooperation in many areas since 1992.

Mayor Yang Jin Cheol said the city will make its 1,200 enterprises of business better aware of opportunities in Tuyen Quang.

Preventing child injury accidents in Vietnam

Injury accidents among children have become a public health concern and are a leading cause of child fatalities in Vietnam.

This problem was discussed at a meeting co-organised by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Hanoi on April 15.

A report announced at the meeting said that in 2007 alone, more than 7,890 Vietnamese children under the age of 19 were killed in injury accidents, half of them by drowning. Boys are at higher risk of injury accidents than girls. Injury accidents are more likely to occur in rural areas than in urban areas. Poverty was also a contributory factor to injury accidents.

According to Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affair Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Vietnam has made remarkable progress in preventing injury accidents among children since the Prime Minister approved a national policy on this issue for the 2001-2010 period.

Jean Dupraz, Deputy Representative of UNICEF in Vietnam, said that to effectively prevent child injury accidents, it is essential to build a comprehensive action plan and increase public awareness of children protection and health care.

US organisation supports eye care services in Ha Nam

The Ha Nam Provincial People’s Committee and US-based ORBIS on April 15 signed a VND2.8 billion deal to improve eye care for children in the province over the next five years.

A project designed to prevent or alleviate blindness among the children of Ha Nam will set up a network to study eye-related diseases, improve the quality of eye care services at Ha Nam hospital for Ophthalmology, and restore the eyesight of children who are at high risk of blindness.

In addition, ORBIS will provide training courses for medical staff at district and communal levels, assist in raising public awareness of eyesight protection for children, provide equipment to the hospital, and build eye clinics in Binh Luc and Thanh Liem districts.

In the 2004-2007 period, ORBIS provided training to 16 surgeons, 53 doctors and 1,600 medical workers, and provided free ophthalmic surgery to 1,537 cataract patients.

Vietnamese, French universities carry out joint scientific projects

Danang University and Nice-Sophia Antipolis University (France) have agreed to work together in nine joint scientific research projects proposed by 35 leading French and Vietnamese scientists.

These projects will be carried out in 2011 with a focus on the environment, civil construction, economic management, information and technology and water resources.

Under the agreement, Nice-Sophia Antipolis University will work hand in hand with Danang University to put these projects into action.

Both universities have got together to create a Nice Campus in Danang University and have also signed a training agreement on five subjects at MA level granted by Nice-Sophia Antipolis in computer sciences, management of the environment and water resources, electronics, business administration and tourism.

Overseas Vietnamese receives top French award

Nguyen Thi That Peel, a French Vietnamese was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honour in recognition of her contribution to humanitarian and cultural activities and enhancing solidarity amongst nations.

Nguyen Thi That Peel was born in 1940 in the southern province of Ben Tre and resettled in France in 1959. In the 1980s, she brought many teams of French doctors to Vietnam for humanitarian activities and collected medicines and medical equipment to send to her homeland, particularly Ben Tre.

During her time working as a representative of the EU in Vietnam, Mrs That Peel greatly helped to promote relations between Vietnam and France as well as the EU.

As a Chairwoman of the France-Vietnam Cultural Association, Mrs That Peel is continuing with her efforts to boost cultural cooperation between the two countries.

The National Order of the Legion of Honour, initiated by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, is the highest award the French State can given to those who have made a special contribution to the country.

Currently, only 100,000 out of 65 million French people have been honoured with the distinctive award.

Ba Ria-Vung Tau to host first festival of gifts

Vietnam’s first festival of gifts will be held in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province from November 17-21, announced Ho Van Nien, Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee.

During the event, a trade fair housing 300 domestic and foreign stands and a competition to design and produce presents will be held.

A seminar on presents for the tourist industry, an exhibition of special items and an auction of presents from 100 trade villages nationwide will take place as well a collection of presents from 50 famous authors will be made in public.

The festival, the first of its kind, will be held in a multipurpose sports hall in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province.

Vietnamese embassy hosts ALFS fair in Japan

The Vietnamese Embassy hosted a charity fair of the Asia-Pacific Ladies Friendship Society (ALFS) in Tokyo on April 14.

The fair, an annual event to raise relief funds for natural disaster victims throughout the world, drew the participation of 23 other embassies of Asia-Pacific countries and the host Japan.

Japanese Princess Akishino and wives of several former Japanese Prime Ministers were among the guests to the fair.

According to Le Thieu Ngan, the wife of Vietnamese Ambassador to Japan Nguyen Phu Binh, who is the ALFS Managing President for the 2009-2010 term, the participating countries displayed their traditional fine arts and handicrafts at the fair and money earned from the sales of these products will be handed over to ALFS for charitable work.

At the two previous fairs, the ALFS allocated US$18,000 for the embassies to conduct charitable activities. The Vietnamese Embassy used the allocated money to build a dormitory in the central province of Nghe An and support flood victims in the northern mountain province of Bac Kan.

FAO helps Vietnam boost food hygiene management

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is helping Vietnam implement several activities in response to the 2010 Action Month for Food Quality, Hygiene and Safety.

Speaking at a seminar entitled “Communication Work: 2010 Action Month for Food Quality, Hygiene and Safety” held in Hanoi on April 14, FAO Chief Representative in Vietnam Andrew W. Speedy said that the project, funded by the One Plan Fund, has drawn the participation of many countries and will help Vietnam build a qualified staff of food inspectors trained in the standards and methods of food inspection, serving as a core for the implementation of national-level inspection plans.

According to the Department of Food Hygiene and Safety (DFHS), at present, Vietnam does not yet have professional inspectors for food hygiene and safety and the work is conducted by 230 health officers.

The results of examinations by authorised agencies on vegetable hygiene and safety show that the fruits and vegetables exceeding the permitted limits for pesticide residue account for 5-15.5 percent and 11.6-13 percent respectively.

Food hygiene and safety efforts haven’t yet reached the expected results, partly because of limited investment. In the 2004-2008 period, the average investment in this field was only VND780 per head per year, much lower than that of Thailand or the US.

HCM City to use ODA funds for transport project

HCM City People’s Committee has proposed to the Prime Minister that the city be allowed to use Official Development Assistance (ODA) funds from the Spanish Government to build metro line number 5 which will link District 8’s Can Giuoc Bus Terminal with District 2’s Saigon Bridge.

The 17-km metro line is scheduled to be built in two phases. The section running from Tan Binh District’s Bay Hien intersection to Saigon Bridge will be built using ODA funds totaling EUR500 million (US$684.5 million) in the first phase.

The second phase will connect the Bay Hien intersection with the Can Giuoc Bus Terminal.