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Drought forces Vietnam’s Mekong Delta residents to leave home, family for work

Friday, May 06, 2016, 17:45 GMT+7
Drought forces Vietnam’s Mekong Delta residents to leave home, family for work
Lam Thanh Tuan, 32, has to leave his home in Soc Trang Province in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta to work as a bricklayer in Ho Chi Minh City.

The devastating effects of this year’s severe drought and salinization have forced many residents from Vietnam’s Mekong Delta to leave their hometown and earn their living elsewhere.

According to Tran Sang, an official in Soc Trang Province, previously, the situation was only evident in poorer households.

“Now, the climatic condition has been so serious this year that many citizens have lost thousands of square meters of crops, forcing them to abandon their homes to find work in other provinces,” Sang said.

Like countless others in the region, Duong Thi Men, an elderly woman in Lich Hoi Thuong Commune, Tran De District, has been taking care of her two young grandchildren while drought conditions have forced their parents to work in the southern province of Binh Duong, some 283 kilometers away from Soc Trang.

According to Dang Thanh Quang, vice-chairman of the People’s Committee in Tran De, the remaining residents in the district are mainly women, young children, and the elderly.    

Pointing at several empty houses in Long Phu Commun, Long Phu District, Tran Van Son, vice-chairman of the commune’s People’s Committee, listed the names of the residents who have left to work as manual laborers in other localities, adding that almost none of them have returned.

“Over 6,000 local people from the commune have been earning a living in Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong, and neighboring Dong Nai Province, as workers, bricklayers, housekeepers, and any other job they can find,” Son elaborated.

Son has been unable to ask people to stay, the official said, adding that all he can do is support those who have not left with rice and clean water and encourage them to ensure proper education for their children.

Approaching a family in Long Phu, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters spoke with Thach Thi Sa Vet, 40, who has been working as a laborer with her husband in Dong Nai for over six months.

The couple returned to their hometown to celebrate Reunification Day (April 30) and International Workers’ Day (May 1). 

“Our usual business operation has been heavily affected by drought and salinization. It was really hard for us to leave our children and our home to find work,” Vet said.

Vet has been working as a housekeeper for two families while her husband labors as a porter in a wood factory in Dong Nai, allowing them to send VND2 million (US$90) per month to their parents to take care of their kids back home.

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Duong Thi Men, an elderly woman in Soc Trang Province, has been taking care of her two grandchildren while their parents work away from home. Photo: Tuoi Tre  

At another cottage in the locality, Thach Thi Ut said that she had been looking after her 76-year-old husband and six grandchildren while five of her sons and daughters have been away from home.

“There are no jobs for them here. They have to find jobs at other places to provide for the kids,” Ut stated.

Ca Mau, Kien Giang, Tien Giang, Vinh Long, and other provinces throughout the region have been heavily affected by the drought.

According to Nguyen Tan Hung, chairman of the People’s Committee in Phu Thanh Commune, Tan Phu Dong District, Tien Giang, about 80 percent of the youth in the locality have left their homes to find opportunity elsewhere, mainly Ho Chi Minh City.

The main reason for this resettlement stems from the fact that almost all of agricultural land in the area has been destroyed by drought and salinization, Duong Van Nhan, deputy head of the Office of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs in Tan Phu Dong District, explained.

Vo Ngoc Thu, director of the Kien Giang Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, affirmed that the number of people working away from home in the province this year is nearly double that of 2015.

Reports of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development showed that drought and salinization have ravaged over 100,000 hectares of crops and about 9,400 hectares of fruit plants in the Mekong Delta.

Over 225,800 households have been deprived of clean water with total expenses to provide the affected families with sufficient water resources estimated at VND330 billion ($14.8 million).

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