VOV’s reporter Le Phuong reports on government and community efforts aimed at helping Agent Orange/Dioxin victims.
Between 1961 and 1971 the US army sprayed about 80 million liters of hazardous chemicals on one-fourth of Vietnam’s southern area. The defoliant Agent Orange has had long-lasting effects on the environment, the ecosystem, and people’s health.
The pain of Agent Orange/ Dioxin
4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange/Dioxin and more than 3 million people were victims of chemical warfare. Hundreds of thousands of them died and hundreds of thousands more are still struggling with fatal diseases.
Studies by the Vietnam-Russia Tropical Center have shown that Agent Orange/Dioxin causes long-lasting medical and biological consequences that can affect 3 or more generations. The health problems from which AO victims suffer have equally tragic economic effects.
AO victims haven’t surrendered to their fate
With support from the Party, the State, social organizations, and the community, families of AO victims have striven to overcome their difficulties. They have obtained loans to develop their production.
Nguyen Thi Y of Bac Ninh province has 4 children who were born with myasthenia and paralysis.
“The Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs and philanthropists gave my children a computer. They learned from the computer’s internet how to transform a regular motorbike into a three-wheeled motorbike for disabled people. Their original aim was just to make one for themselves, but now they can help other people in the same situation and generate an income. My family’s mechanical workshop has produced 200 three-wheel motorbikes for customers in several provinces”, said Ms Y.
Joint efforts to ease the pain of Agent Orange/Dioxin victims
The Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA) and local branches have mobilized social resources to help AO victims by building houses and offering them loans for production, scholarships for their children’s schooling, and free healthcare.
The Association has raised US$4.5 million over the past 10 years to help around 60,000 people. The Association has built 26 rehabilitation centers for AO victims and will inaugurate another center in Thach That district on the outskirts of Hanoi.
VAVA President Nguyen Van Rinh said “The best support for AO victims is to give them loans for production. We lend each household US$450 at zero percent interest within 5 to 7 years. When their production has become stable, they repay the original loan to other households. Philanthropists and organizations have given them pigs and cows. We have cooperated with communication agencies to connect donors and AO victims.”
Tra Thanh Lanh, Vice President of the Da Nang Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin, says that in the 12 years since its establishment, the Association has raised US$3.8 million to help some 5,000 AO victims, including 1,400 children.
“The City’s Center for the Protection of AO Victims is taking care of 150 children from extremely disadvantaged families. We teach them tailoring and how to make incense, artificial flowers, and glass-bead items. We have encouraged people to provide monthly financial support and take care of AO victims for the rest of their life”, said Mr Lanh.
The Da Nang Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin has organized art programs to entertain AO victims and raise charity funds.
The Vietnam-Russia Tropical Research Center says AO affects humans and nature not just for 20 years, but 100 years. The number of Vietnamese AO victims will not stop at 4.8 million people, but could expand to tens of millions of people. Helping AO victims ease their pain is the responsibility of everyone inside and outside Vietnam.