In the remote and isolated province of Lai Chau in northern Vietnam, most of the inhabitants rely on agriculture to earn a living. When Covid-19 led to travel and trade restrictions earlier this year, those that used to go to the field every day to farm found themselves in a difficult position economically. Aide et Action has been responding, distributing essential supplies to those that need them most.
During the lockdown, schools were closed for approximately three months (February-May) and restrictions were placed on travel, trade, events, public gatherings, and more. For 24-year old Vang Thi A and her husband, these preventative measures had a significant impact on their family. Before the outbreak, Vang Thi and her husband supported their household of six on approximately US$130 per month from producing cardamon, corn and rice.
Disruption of everyday life
After taking the children to school, Vang Thi and her husband used to go to the rice fields to work for the day. At home, their parents would sell their produce and prepare the family meals. During school closures however their typical schedules were disrupted. “My children had to stay at home for over three months we, in turn, had to stay home and take care of them”, explains Vang Thi.
“Our income is reduced because of social distancing policies; nobody came to buy or exchange goods and agricultural products. While our income is limited the price of food such as meat has increased by around 30% and even some goods were out of stock during the isolation period” adds Vang Thi. At the time of meeting Vang Thi (April 2020), she had considerably reduced her consumption of meat, fish and eggs from every day to 2-3 times per week.
Education is key
Like most places in the world, the pandemic has brought increased levels of uncertainty and worry to the residents of this village in Lau Chai province. We are farmers so our life depends on agricultural products and we can’t take care of our children if we do not sell anything. I feel stressed and worried about money and if I get the virus I might not even know I have it”, says Vang Thi.
Since the outbreak, Aide et Action has been delivering information on hygiene and virus prevention and with support from Standard Chartered Bank, we have been distributing essential materials such as soap, sanitiser, masks, and more. “I received a leaflet from Aide et Action and I learnt important information to better support my children”, says Vang Thi. It helped me to talk to them about the virus and to teach them about keeping a safe distance from others”, she adds.
Vang Thi fears that because children are not used to wearing masks or washing their hands regularly, better hygiene practices will be hard to maintain but she is determined to reinforce the habits at home among her own family. Not everyone in the village could afford soap but now that Aide et Action has supported families and schools with soap and education on how to use it effectively, Vang Thi is hopeful. “The soap that Aide et Action provided will help us to be more careful in prevention for children”, she says.
Thinking of the future, Vang Thi is worried about how farmers like herself will survive the economic shocks of the crisis if the situation worsens and restrictions are reintroduced. “There will be many people who have no jobs and the poor people will become poorer and many students may not be able to attend school again because they have to stay home to help their parents or work”, fears Vang Thi.
As children return to education and life slowly resumes in Vietnam, Aide et Action will continue to monitor the situation and identify the needs of some of the country’s most marginalised populations. Our response projects are currently ongoing and we are continuing to provide students with valuable hygiene materials to better protect them at home and at school.