But with this rapid growth comes the inevitable companions of poverty and inequity, creating a sometimes toxic mix for children who need protection. These are the things we have been studying—the drivers of violence—and ultimately one of the key lessons from our study is that violence prevention can’t be tackled in isolation from a deep understanding how a country’s history, politics, and economics shape a child’s experience growing up.
The Government of Viet Nam has done much to document and mitigate these effects, including targeted programmes for family well-being and specifically for children. But challenges remain in a country which almost four decades later is still struggling to heal the wounds of a traumatic war.
Traces of Agent Orange, an herbicide designed to destroy jungles during the war, still leach from the soil. UNICEF-Viet Nam estimates that there are 1.2 million Vietnamese children (out of the 30.5 million Vietnamese under 18) suffering from disabilities and it is suspected that many of these are related to dioxin, one of Agent Orange’s chemical components.
In general, there are higher rates of disabled children in the areas of the country that were more heavily sprayed, as well as in areas where there are current dioxin hotspots. The causation is still unclear. However, we do know with certainty that children with disabilities face a significantly higher risk for all types of violence.
Even for Vietnamese children elsewhere in the country, violence is an everyday issue made worse by intense family pressure to succeed. Evidence from Viet Nam shows, for example, that children who are violent at school are often from families where they experience physical or emotional violence from parents, caregivers or siblings.