Following the big leap from India to Vietnam and the unofficial establishment of an Operation ASHA presence in Vietnam, things are finally starting to move into the right directions. And while we have not been able to actually start operations yet, there have been a few positive developments that I would like to share with you.
As you may remember from the last progress update, a revision of the law governing the operations of foreign NGOs in Vietnam earlier this year rendered the existing agreement we had signed with the National TB Control Program ineffective with regard to applying for the permit of operations. Hence, right after my arrival in Vietnam, I took a brief trip to Hanoi to meet with the directors of the National TB Control Program (NTP) and discuss potential next steps that would avoid months of cutting through bureaucratic layers to obtain all the necessary approvals.
To my surprise and the credit of the director and deputy director of the NTP, after a one hour meeting we had come to a conclusion on next steps, exchanged a softcopy of a new contract I had drafted and by the end of the day both gentlemen had reviewed, edited and returned the draft to me. While this is a true tribute to the leadership of the Vietnamese NTP, it is also a testament to the urgency of the TB problem in Vietnam and the need for organizations like Operation ASHA to intervene. The next day I returned to their offices and within half an hour we had a new, signed contract in our hands, with which we would be able to reapply for the permit of operations.
The same day I also managed to squeeze in a meeting with another NGO, the Medical Committee of Netherlands-Vietnam (MCNV), with whom we had already met last year to discuss a potential way to collaborate. Out of that meeting came the idea of collaborating on a proposal with TB Reach, a major funding facility sponsored by the Stop TB Partnership and the WHO. About a week ago we managed to complete and submit the application and we are keeping our fingers crossed for a positive outcome.
On the third day of that initial Hanoi trip, I was granted a meeting with the deputy director general of the authority issuing permits of operation. In that meeting I was able to briefly present and simply handover the paperwork for the permit. The next day, after I had already returned to Ho Chi Minh City, he also told me that he had already submitted the paperwork for processing. In the following weeks up until today, I had to follow-up and submit a few additional documents, but a few days ago a dispatch from Hanoi had been issued to the local authorities in Ho Chi Minh City about the granting of a permit to Operation ASHA. It seems that the end of this road is finally within reach.
In the meantime, I was invited by the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit to give a presentation on Operation ASHA’s work and its impact in India and Cambodia next week. Hopefully, new friends will be made during that meeting as well.
While the process has been highly encouraging and has made major leaps forward, the grain of salt is that the permit has still not been issued. Furthermore, it seems that a potential major future funder for our operations in Vietnam is downsizing and withdrawing support on which we had initially counted. Hence, I want to thank you for your ongoing support now more than ever.
Additionally, allow me to ask you to continue raising awareness to family and friends about TB and our project and hope they will decide to contribute and join our circle of friends in the fight against the disease as well.