The province of Dien Bien is located in northwestern Vietnam, about 35 km from the border with Laos. The region is very mountainous, but the city of Dien Bien Phu itself is located in a large valley.
The city’s population is estimated to be around 40,000, and is growing quickly. Numerous ethnic minorities live in the rural surroundings, each speaking their own language, and very often, they do not speak Vietnamese.
Dien Bien is one of the most economically deprived provinces in Vietnam. 36.7% of the population of Dien Bien live in poverty
Since 2009, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Dien Bien Phu.
With a population of over half a million, about 45% live below the poverty line. Most of the people live off farming or herding animals. Infrastructure in these more rural areas is in need of investment.
Children from rural areas are often unable to attend school, only 46.6% complete upper secondary school. On the one hand, there is a lack of schools, which means that they may have to walk long distances to get to school. In addition, the extra cost of schooling is often unaffordable to parents who are struggling to make a living. Children may also have to contribute to the family income - by working in the home or on the land.
Human trafficking is a problem throughout Vietnam and the northern province of Dien Bien is no exception. People are trafficked both internally to other cities in Vietnam, but also across the borders to Laos, China and further afield. They are forced to work in construction, fishing, agriculture, mining and logging as well as commercial sexual exploitation throughout Asia and further afield. Most are tricked into leaving their home, thinking they are going to a legitimate job, only to find themselves trapped and exploited. For example, around one third of sex workers in neighbouring Cambodia are Vietnamese. Furthermore, when parents migrate their children are often left in the care of relatives.