Children's Health Can't Wait: Sustaining Nutrition Improvement Initiatives


Children are the future custodians of any nation, and ensuring their physical and mental well-being is undeniably the most meaningful investment. In Taiwan, the health of children is relatively well-protected, with comprehensive measures in place since the establishment of the Central Health Insurance Administration in 1994. While Taiwan's legal framework and advanced medical standards contribute to this, many developing countries face challenges in public health systems and lack awareness of health promotion. Taiwan Fund for Children and Families Vietnam (TFCF Vietnam) has been progressively adjusting its focus since 2019, concentrating efforts on "child education" and "health."

In 2020, TFCF Vietnam collaborated with the Vietnam Association for the Protection of Child Rights (VACR) to implement a nutrition improvement program. Operating on a community-based model, this initiative targeted small groups of around 100 individuals, providing basic health check-ups, necessary nutrition supplements for children under six, and parenting education lectures. After nearly two years of collaboration, the program expanded to Hanoi in late 2022, officially launching the Children's Nutrition Improvement Program in collaboration with VACR Vietnam in 2023.

According to UNICEF's 2022 data, Vietnam has a population of approximately 97.5 million, with children under five constituting 8% of the total, around 7.8 million. Among them, 1.5 million children are experiencing stunted growth. To put this in perspective, this number is equivalent to 60% of Taipei City's registered population. Addressing these health issues not only supports affected families but also eases the strain on public resources.

Due to local regulations, foreign non-profit organizations in Vietnam face challenges in service delivery, requiring government endorsement for operations. Despite limited flexibility, TFCF Vietnam extended its resources to Minh Quang Li, a commune about 50 kilometers northwest of Hanoi. With a population of about 140,000, including a significant minority population, this area presents challenges. Statistics from the local People's Committee highlight 3,500 households, of which 126 are low to middle-income. Among the 1,285 children under six, 7% suffer from malnutrition.

Following the TFCF Vietnam's model in Ho Chi Minh City, the program in Minh Quang Li involves data exploration to assess whether providing nutrition supplements positively impacts growth indicators like height and weight. Collaborating with the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), the medical team identified 95 malnourished children out of the 401 measured. In March, a supplement distribution and parenting seminar provided the children with recommended nutritional supplements.

While reducing malnutrition is relatively easier in areas with better living conditions and ample public resources, it remains challenging in remote regions with traditional lifestyles. Despite these challenges, TFCF Vietnam believes that the well-being of children should be a universal aspiration. They will persist in promoting nutrition improvement programs, enhancing children's nutrition and health, and fostering a positive cycle of growth through initiatives like lectures to enhance caregivers' skills.

TFCF Vietnam is committed to ensuring that every assisted child receives the necessary support and care, hoping that each child can develop and grow robustly in a healthy environment.