Public health impact assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable groups living near the border of Vietnam and China


As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, Governments of Viet Nam and other neighbouring countries have implemented measures to prevent further spread of the virus, including closure of the border between Viet Nam and China. This is expected to have major socio-economic impacts on both sides of the border. Cross-border trade, which is the main source of income for many communities living in the border areas, is no longer possible. Significant economic impacts have been being experienced by the ethnic minority communities and poor families close to the northern border. Moreover, the health-related impacts of the pandemic pose challenges on access and utilization of healthcare by ethnic minority and poor families.

An early focus on the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on ethnic minority and poor families is important in the context of Viet Nam. Having commissioned by UNDP, from May to July 2020, the Institute of Social and Medical Studies (ISMS) will undertake a rapid public health impact assessment in the border areas focusing on the ethnic minority and poor families whose livelihoods heavily depend on cross-border trade. The assessment will provide evidence-based advice to the Viet Nam Government in mitigation of possible pandemic impacts to the access and utilization of public health services by the ethnic minority and poor families during and after the pandemic.


The assessment is expected to define the nature, scope and intensity of public health impacts of the pandemic anticipated or observed to date that can help UNDP to better support the Government of Viet Nam in understanding the public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable groups, including the poor, ethnic minorities, older persons, children and women living near the border of Viet Nam and China by:

  •  Exploring household livelihood activities;
  • Assessing the communication activities in border areas and exploring current access to information about COVID-19 among the vulnerable groups;
  • Reviewing all channels of communication and how these reach the vulnerable groups to influence their awareness, attitudes, and practices and what possible enabling and barriers factors;
  • Assessing the COVID-19 pandemic preventive and curative health care services provision in border areas both by health care facilities and the mobile task forces and what possible enabling and barriers factors; and
  • Assessing how those services reach the most vulnerable groups and what possible enabling and barriers factors.


To carry out this assessment, we propose to employ a mixed-methods approach that combines primary qualitative research to explore the nature of the impacts of the pandemic on vulnerable groups, coupled with desk review of secondary quantitative information on preventive and curative responses of the health care sector and the implementation of those responses by the local authorities in Viet Nam. Interview guides for qualitative data collection, including household interviews (HI), focus group discussion (FGD) and in-depth interviews (IDI).

Study sites and time

The assessment is carried out in Lao Cai and Ha Giang province from May to July 2020

The assessment is funded by UNDP  Vietnam