Over 1 million Vietnamese live in hunger

By VnExpress   October 1, 2016 | 01:00 am PT
Over 1 million Vietnamese live in hunger
A farmer carries rice on his shoulder during the harvest season on a paddy field in Vinh Ngoc village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Reuters
6 percent of families in the country are now under the poverty line.

More than one million Vietnamese people are not having enough food to eat, according to a new official report, which has blamed severe drought and the recent toxic spill scandal for worsening the nation's poverty problem.

The General Statistics Office has found that around 6 percent of all Vietnamese families, or 1.4 million households, are living under the poverty line, or earning less than VND4.8 million ($215) a year per capita. Last year's poverty rate was 4.5 percent.

Among them, more than 251,000 families are in extreme poverty and have to suffer hunger on a daily basis. That translates to over 1 million persons in hunger, up 15.4 percent compared to this time last year.

The statistics office's report blamed the situation on severe drought and salt intrusion in many areas.

The worst drought in the country in 100 years destroyed nearly 260,000 hectares of rice and vegetables, more than 160,000 hectares of orchards and cash crops and more than 4,500 hectares of seafood farms in southern and central Vietnam in the first four months. The damage has been estimated at $250 million.

Mass fish deaths caused by the toxic spill from Taiwanese steel firm Formosa along the central coast in April were also a factor in pushing many families into poverty, the report said.

The environment disaster created a seafood scare across the country and hit tourism in beach towns, harming the livelihoods of thousands of people.

Nguyen Bich Lam, head of the statistics office, said the Formosa scandal is going to affect Vietnam’s economy in the long run.

“The impacts of the incident will last for years, affecting a number of industries including tourism," he was quoted by local media as saying.

Vietnam has been universally praised for its efforts to tackle poverty over the past decades. But even after the economy has moved up and achieved the middle-income status, hunger and poverty continue to hurt many people.

A new policy effective later this year will redefine poverty as earning less than VND8.4 million ($374) a year per person. This new threshold is expected to raise the ratio of poor families in the country to 10 percent, or more than 2.3 million.

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