The Viet Nam Fatherland Front (VFF) urged the entire people to help support the poor in Ha Noi on Oct. 17. It announced that Oct. 17 is from now on officially the "Day for the Poor".

The Day has been set up to promote national unity, particularly in the eradication of poverty and hunger.

Prominent among those at the launching ceremony were Advisor to the Communist Party of Viet Nam Central Committee Do Muoi, President Tran Duc Luong, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, VFF President Pham The Duyet, and other senior officials.

Also present at the ceremony were representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank (WB), foreign embassies and international organizations in Ha Noi.

In his speech, VFF President Pham The Duyet called upon people and servicemen nationwide to take part in the drive. He said that each individual, household, business, socio-political and charitable organization, administrative agency, overseas Vietnamese, international, non-governmental and governmental organization should support poor people by providing them with money, goods, work and wages, interest-fee loans, production knowledge and experience, and free-of-charge medical treatment.

Addressing the ceremony, President Tran Duc Luong said that the improvement of people's living conditions had always been a strategic task of the Party, the State and people of Viet Nam. He laid stress on urgent issues relating to poverty reduction among low-income persons and in difficult areas.

The President asked ministries, branches of activities and localities to devise detailed programmes and plans to carry out the poverty reduction drive.

On this occasion, representatives of the UNDP and the WB, bilateral donors and non-governmental organizations in Viet Nam signed commitments to continue assisting Viet Nam with its poverty reduction targets for 2010.

Over the past five years, as many as 1.5 million poor households, including 7.5 million people, have escaped from hunger and poverty. The percentage of hungry households will have fallen from 20.3 percent in 1995 to about 11 percent by the end of this year.

The country has invested VND 15,000 billion (roughly USD 1.07 billion) in various projects to improve healthcare and education, build infrastructure and give financial assistance to poor areas.

After the launching ceremony, over VND 375 million as donations was collected from delegates. Party general secretary Le Kha Phieu, advisors to the Party Central Committee, NA Chairman Nong Duc Manh, and many senior State and Party leaders sent donations to the fund.

The same day, in response to the Day for the Poor, funds for the poor were raised in the Vietnam Labour Confederation, Committee for Ethnic Minorities and Mountainous Area and Ha Giang province.

Also on the occasion, the Ministry of Health held a seminar