UN Volunteer Natsuko Hatano interacting with children in pre-school during the field visit to monitor WASH activities and services for COVID-19 response in Gia Lai province, Viet Nam.
UN Volunteer Natsuko Hatano interacting with children in pre-school during the field visit to monitor WASH activities and services for COVID-19 response in Gia Lai province, Viet Nam.

Facing multiple challenges of COVID-19 and drought and saltwater intrusion in Viet Nam

UN Volunteer Natsuko Hatano (Japan) began her volunteer assignment with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Viet Nam in May 2019. As part of the Child Survival and Development Programme Section, Natsuko is supporting the Water, Sanitization and Hygiene team and Emergency Working Group of UNICEF in their COVID-19 response efforts. She shares her experience in supporting the WASH response in the current context.

Water filters, soap and hand sanitizers are essential for the survival and development of children – especially those who struggle every day from poor sanitation and a lack of access to drinking water – and have become more critical than ever during the global pandemic. In Viet Nam, UNICEF’s WASH team has distributed critical supplies to communal health centres and communities in selected provinces, reaching over 2.1 million people as of November 2020 through their immediate response.

UN Volunteers with UNICEF in Viet Nam have contributed to our joint efforts with the Government to fight the Coronavirus pandemic through their skills, creativity, dedication and hard work. In these tough times, the values of volunteerism have shone brighter than ever before. --Dr Nguyen Huy Du - Chief a.i., Child Survival and Development Programme, UNICEF

The WASH response also includes capacity training for commune healthcare staff, teachers and relevant officers on WASH and infection prevention and control. The aim of this response is to train personnel who could play a vital role in supporting the prevention of COVID-19 and providing essential services and a safe learning school environment for children. The WASH team ensures equitable access to drinking water, appropriate sanitation facilities and promote hygiene practices through guidelines and communication materials. The team also supports vulnerable people, such as women and children, in social protection and quarantine centres.

It is amazing to see all our efforts and energies going towards the common goal of protecting the most disadvantaged, vulnerable people in communities and society. This connectedness, oneness and solidarity is inspiring, as the COVID-19 pandemic is dividing people, society and the whole world in every aspect. --Natsuko Hatano, UN Volunteer with UNICEF


The ongoing emergency response is facing multiple challenges of COVID-19 and drought and saltwater intrusion in the Mekong Delta Regions in the south, and now severe floods in central Viet Nam. UNICEF is working on preparedness and response to this disaster, together with the COVID-19 response. While this is a challenge, Natsuko also sees this as an opportunity to ensure continuous access to WASH services and sustainable management of the same for the most vulnerable in society. 

Natsuko shares, “I have been supporting coordination, planning, monitoring, reporting and documentation of UNICEF Viet Nam responses. Through the WASH sector meeting, development partners and government ministries came together to share experiences and discuss necessary action, which helps us effectively respond to the situation. The CSD section I am part of is the focal point of the COVID-19 response. Throughout my work, I have also been working together with other UN Volunteers serving in the health, education and child protection teams. This was an opportunity for me to exchange experiences of emergency support with them and country offices. Overall, I learned about professionalism, management and strategic thinking from colleagues with different expertise."

Natsuko is a highly motivated and enthusiastic UN Volunteer with the UNICEF Viet Nam team. As a key member of the Emergency Management Team, she ensures frequent sharing and documentation of COVID-19 cross-sectoral response activities and consolidation of timely and quality donor updates and reports. --Ms Tran Thu An, Consultant for WASH in emergencies

"Supporting the COVID-19 response means solidarity in everything," Natsuko shares. "It is true that our travel and freedom of movement are restricted with lockdowns, quarantine and social distancing in many parts of the world, greatly impacting how we live and work. Under such circumstances, it is vital to take care of yourself as well as others, and stay connected with family and friends. Also, I believe that every effort from everyone counts for the people we are serving. International cooperation and solidarity on such a large, global scale are needed more than ever.”

Natsuko’s UN Volunteer assignment was initially fully funded by the Government of Japan and was extended by UNICEF for one more year, as a result of her dedicated support and proven performance.

Access some of the documentation Natsuko has contributed to with the UNICEF team:

Resources on multiple emergencies in Viet Nam: