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Opening Remarks by Mr Kamal Malhotra United Nations Resident Coordinator at Launching Ceremony for "An integrated dengue early warning system driven by Earth Observations in Viet Nam"

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Event: Launching Ceremony for "An integrated dengue early warning system driven by Earth Observations in Viet Nam"

Date: 19 March 2019

Venue: Green One UN House, 304 Kim Ma, Hanoi

  • H.E. Ambassador Gareth Ward,
  • Madame H' Yim Kdoh, Vice Chair of Dak Lak Provincial People's Committee,
  • Madame Nguyen Hoa Hiep, Vice Chair of Dong Nai Provincial People's Committee,
  • Mr. Darren Lumbroso, D-MOSS Project Director,
  • Distinguished guests,
  • Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the United Nations in Viet Nam, I am delighted to be here today at the launch event of this UK Space Agency supported inter-agency project that aims to establish "An integrated dengue early warning system driven by Earth Observations in Viet Nam."

Dengue fever is one the most rapidly spreading, mosquito borne viral diseases in the world. The incidence of dengue has grown dramatically around the world increasing 30-fold over the last 50 years. Before 1970, only 9 countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics. The disease is now endemic in more than 140 countries with around 390 million people infected annually. Not only are the number of cases increasing as the disease spreads to new areas, but explosive outbreaks are increasingly occurring.

In Viet Nam, dengue fever poses an enormous public health problem in terms of morbidity and mortality for communities. It also results in severe economic and social costs to individuals, families and society. Large scale outbreaks occurred in 1987 and 1998 with more than 200,000 cases reported during each outbreak, while since 2000, the number of cases of dengue fever in Viet Nam have more than doubled. More recently, Viet Nam experienced a large dengue outbreak in 2017 with over 170,000 cases reported including at least 38 deaths.

As dengue is highly sensitive to heat and water availability, climate change, global warming, El Niño as well as uncontrolled urbanization and migration have hampered dengue prevention efforts. Water resources in Viet Nam are under increasing stress due to overexploitation, salinization, contamination and climate change, exposing a large part of Viet Nam's population to various water-related risks, also simultaneously challenging decision makers to better manage an increasing water demand. Meanwhile, water availability directly impacts dengue epidemics due to the provision of mosquito breeding sites. Despite this, surprisingly and sadly, water availability or water resource management are rarely accounted for in dengue prediction models.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Given the significant correlation between weather factors and dengue incidence, a combination of water availability forecasting and dengue fever outbreak prediction enabled by satellite technology is a great innovation. The project we are launching today is exciting in that it leverages global and local expertise from across disciplines and continents to harness data and experience to create early-warning systems and analytic tools that can help Viet Nam's health systems roll-back dengue's impacts both today and in the future.

As UN Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam, I am very excited that this project has finally come to fruition after some daunting challenges we encountered along the way but which we finally overcame by using creative and innovative solutions. This project is also yet another clear example of the UN's increasing number of joint programmes in Viet Nam, drawing on multiple agencies' strengths, expertise, system-wide experiences and assets, in this case those of UNDP and WHO. Our project partners also include national and global experts and institutions: national expertise is being drawn from the MOH, the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh city, the National Institute for Hygiene and Epidemiology, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Institute for Meteorology, Hydrology, and Environment.

Global partners include the consortium lead, HR Wallingford, the well-known and respected London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the UK Met Office and Oxford Policy Management. This consortium which brings together the UN with relevant national and international institutions represents a truly visionary and innovative approach to accelerating solutions and supporting decision making on health and climate issues by linking satellite, water, climate and health data. It should contribute significantly to achieving multiple SDGs and ensuring horizontal integration across them, notably SDG3- Good Health, SDG13- Climate Change and Wellbeing and SDG6- Clean Water and Sanitation. Moreover, this joint initiative also introduces the UK Space Agency to new partnerships in Viet Nam.

There is no doubt that as with all innovations, there will be challenges ahead, just as those we already encountered and overcame in getting to this stage. There will also, no doubt, be lessons to be learned both here and globally as this work develops. On behalf of the UN in Viet Nam, let me emphasize that we look forward to working with the Government, the UK Space Agency, HR Wallingford and the other multiple development stakeholders to ensure that this exciting initiative is a success.

Only true collaboration will guarantee that the innovations we will hear about today will help better manage dengue fever in the future. In so doing, we can significantly accelerate actions which will help contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals it embodies and change many lives here in Viet Nam for the better through this initiative.

Thank you for your participation in today's event.

I wish you all good health and prosperity.

Xin cam on!