Nguyen Hong Nhung, a native from northern Nam Dinh Province, has been residing at a boarding house on Ha Noi’s Kham Thien Street with her husband and four other couples for many years, working as scrap-iron dealer.
Nhung said her work day often ended at 9pm, after which she and her husband only exchanged a few words and went to bed.
At her boarding house, migrant workers do not have access to information about reproductive health or disease prevention.
Most migrant workers have to live in temporary boarding homes in the city, often in deteriorating conditions.
According to studies from the Viet Nam branch of Marie Stopes International — a not-for-profit organisation providing sexual and reproductive healthcare services in more than 40 countries — many people do not seek access to healthcare services because they have limited sexual health education, do not register with health facilities and are under pressure to send any money they save back home.
The General Statistics Office estimated that at least 1.3 million people inViet Nam migrated in 1989, and that the number had increased to 3.4 million by 2009.
The office predicted the wave of migration would hit 6 million people in 2019, representing 6.4 per cent of the nation’s total population.
Duong Quoc Trong, head of the General Office for Population and Family Planning under the Ministry of Health, said that since 2009 the population sector had conducted several studies on the demand for contraceptives and other reproductive health services among workers in industrial centres and export processing zones.
Most migrant workers have little understanding about reproductive health and sex safety, according to a qualitative study about the awareness, attitudes, and sex lives of migrant workers in Ha Noi and HCM City, released last year by the Ha Noi-based Institute for Social Development Studies.
The study examined the situation of 35 migrants, mostly from northern villages.
The study found that married couples in the migration community did not use condoms nor have sufficient knowledge about infectious sex-related diseases.
The men often resorted to prostitution in the city after years of living away from their hometowns, a trend which also increased the risks of disease among their wives.
Mandeep Janeja, deputy director of the United Nations Population Fund in Viet Nam, noted that young women comprise a large group of migrant workers, making them more vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies, HIV and other infectious diseases.
Tran Ha Mong Ngoc, southern programme manager for Marie Stopes International in Viet Nam, said many migrants, strained by long hours working in the factories, often did not have the time to learn about reproductive health safety.
She added that they did not qualify for health and other welfare benefits in the cities where they worked.
Since 2005, Marie Stopes International has been working with manufacturers such as Adidas and Abercrombie & Fitch in HCM City to provide sexual health services and information to migrant workers in both factory and community settings.
Ngoc suggested expanding reproductive health services to workers in centres placed close to their factories, organising workshops and mobilising support from businesses and the local governments.
Other experts also called for more health care programmes designed to specifically target migrant workers, as well as policies that would make it easier for them to access reproductive health services.