Singer Katy Perry meets Vietnamese school children facing huge challenges

Katy Perry meets students at a daycare centre in Ninh Thuan Province that serves children with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities Picture: UNICEF/Quan


Vietnam has one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia – but many children in rural areas are being left behind.

Singer-songwriter Katy Perry, who is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF, saw the plight of families trapped in cycles of poverty when she visited Ninh Thuan province – one of the most deprived and remote regions.

She said: “On my first day in Ninh Thuan, I visited a school that provides children with disabilities the support they need to thrive alongside their peers.

“I also visited a junior high school mainly made up of students from ethnic minorities who were empowered by the opportunity to have access to higher education.”

In some areas, one in five children do not go to school. Half of all children there also live in absolute poverty and do not receive adequate health care, leading to high numbers of child deaths from preventable diseases.

A class at the daycare centre in Ninh Thuan Province Picture: UNICEF/Quan

Children from ethnic minorities – who make up 15% of Vietnam’s population – continue to face exclusion and limited opportunities.

If they don’t speak Vietnamese as a first language, they can fall behind at school and have little hope of achieving the levels of education which can lift them out of poverty.

UNICEF and the government are working together to break down the language barriers to give children the opportunity to learn the primary school curricula in their mother tongue.

Katy visited programmes aimed at ending exclusion for children with disabilities and also saw the agency’s work in child survival, education and early childhood development.

The star also learned about its work on water, sanitation and hygiene, and climate change.

Five-year-old Linh (not her real name) showed signs of malnutrition and was not at pre-school in Bac Ai district – she is now due to start primary school in September Picture: UNICEF/Quan

The World Bank’s income classification has moved Vietnam into the “lower-middle-income country” ranking. Despite the progress evident in the big cities, in rural areas children continue to suffer from deprivation and poverty.

Katy said: “It was heartbreaking to meet a grandmother who was left to care for four grandchildren after her daughter passed away.

“The family lives off a bumpy path in a remote village in the hills and one of the grandchildren, a five-year-old named Linh, became severely malnourished.

“If a UNICEF-trained outreach worker had not come to the village and made sure Linh got the care she needed, she might not be alive today.

“Linh is one of millions of children who face such challenges every day. That’s something we should all be worried about.”