Training and Technical Assistance in Reproductive Health in Vietnam

Country: Vietnam
Project management: Michael Runge
Funding amount: 1.8 million DM
Duration: 1994-95 pilot phase, 1996-2001 main project
Local project partners: See below
All sponsors: See below
Contact: Michael Runge

Due to the political isolation under the leadership of the USA and the socialist planned economy, Vietnam was already on the brink of collapse in the mid-1980s and was starving. Twenty years after the end of the Vietnam War (1995), health care for the population had reached an all-time low. The hospitals hadn’t been renovated for decades, it smelled of urine, and the women in the large women’s clinics in former Saigon lay in pairs on wire racks. Mattresses and medicines were scarce and medical knowledge was stuck during the war. The specialist departments were only looked after and managed by a few old specialists from the pre-war period and well-deserved general practitioners and surgeons.

The medical student and specialist training were on the floor and the latest textbooks were from 1968. Medical care appropriate for women and children had long ceased to exist. The result was one of the highest maternal mortality rates worldwide (700 deaths per 100,000 live births, Germany 6-8 cases / 100,000). The situation was similarly bad for perinatal and infant mortality.

The medical faculty in the old imperial city of Hue in central Vietnam was built with the help of Freiburg in the years 1961-68. This historical reference, a new policy of opening up the Vietnamese government and the fact that we are already funding two aid projects in Vietnam, allowed us in 1994 to visit the Vietnamese medical faculties and gynecological clinics and to analyze the health situation on site ( see also ARD film “From Living and Dying in Vietnam” about the materra projects in the media library). In order to alleviate the plight of women and children and to support the very committed colleagues in their endeavors to improve health care, the project presented here was ultimately conceived.

Our project team at Hung Vuong Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon


  • Reduction in maternal and child mortality and disease rates
  • Opening of medical faculties for international cooperation after decades of isolation


  • Resumption of a qualitatively better specialist training
  • Joint establishment of a master’s course in gynecology and obstetrics with the medical faculties and teaching of the same
  • Practical on-the-job training in the country’s major teaching clinics through international participation
  • Technical retrofitting where necessary so that the new teaching content can also be implemented clinically
  • Granting of grants for prospective specialists and executives
  • Organization of international workshops in Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City to improve the knowledge of doctors and to promote new clinical collaborations with other universities and clinics in Germany and Europe


  • In the first six years of this Vietnam project, 1,200 specialists from all parts of the country were trained or further educated, who now care for millions of women and newborns every year
  • 22 international workshops on gynecological and obstetric topics were held (total participation 5092 Vietnamese doctors)
  • 25 national, practice-oriented seminars and training courses
  • With the help of the DAAD, 24 one to two year training and doctoral scholarships were awarded to Germany
  • Participation in 11 national workshops organized by the faculties
  • 27 lecturers (21 from Germany) from five countries took part in the events
  • 29 technical retrofit projects (e.g. ultrasound, surgical instruments, mammography, laparoscopy, etc.)
  • 12 new special departments were set up at four clinics (e.g. breast diagnostics, cancer prevention, cytology, neonatology, endoscopy, etc.)


  • The perinatal mortality decreased at the participating clinics from 58 to 38 per thousand births (Federal Republic in the same period 5-7 per 1,000)
  • Maternal mortality fell, also thanks to many other projects and interventions, in the period from 1994 to 2007 (end of the second project) from 700-800 (depending on the region and clinical facility) to 100-200 dead mothers per 100,000 live births)

Wards with over 30 patients are not uncommon

Medical students in the courtyard of the university during their lunch break (Hanoi 1995)

Ultimately, it is always about the health of women and their children in our projects (boat seller on the Perfume River in Hue 1994)

Local project partners: Ministry of Health, Hanoi
Ministry of Training and Education, Hanoi
University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Ho Chi Minh City
University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Hue
National University / Medical Faculty, Hanoi
Hung Vuong Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City
Tu Du Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City
Gia Dinh Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City
Hue Central Hospital, Hue
Institute for Mothers and Newborn, Hanoi
All sponsors: Wissenschaftsministerium Baden-Württemberg
Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst DAAD, Bonn
Materra Stiftung Frau und Gesundheit e.V., Freiburg
Universitäts-Frauenklinik Freiburg
Schering AG, Berlin
Karl-Storz GmbH, Tuttlingen

Contact: Michael Runge

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