Editorial: Recently, in Hanoi, VAVA and the United State Agency for International Development (USAID) held a Conference on measures for supporting AO victims in the 2019 – 2024 period. One of the 30 speeches sent to and presented at the conference was that of Professor, Doctor Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, Vice President of VAVA entitled “The matter of supporting Vietnamese AO victims”. The Vietnam Agent Orange would like to introduce her speeach.
As we all know, the US health agencies have recognised that as much as 376 kg of Agent Orange were sprayed in Vietnam between 1961 and 1971. Besides its destructive effect on the environment, AO is also extremely harmful to people’s health, causing 18 diseases to US veterans who engaged in Vietnam War. The diseases founded in the children of the US female war veterans who went into Vietnam War are said to be caused by AO.
The 1st generation Vietnamese AO victims consisting of about 4.8 million people also suffered from harmful affect of AO like the US war veterans but to a much greater extent as they exposed to very high density of AO, 600 times as much as the average dosage used in agriculture, in a long time while Vietnamese people have worse health than the US veterans and they also suffered from bad living conditions and malnutrition in wartime. Most of the 1st-generation victims suffered from cancers and other serious diseases. Thousands of them have died. The alive victims now all become very old and suffer from persistent pains.
Máy bay Mỹ phun rải chất độc da cam ở miền nam Việt Nam
The 2nd-generation victims are numerous. Most of them exposed to AO indrectly, such as through bio-chemical mechanism or through breastfeeding. Because they expose to AO from the early days of their lives, they are heavily affected by AO. Some families have 2, 3 or even 4 children being affected by AO making them more and more miserable.
The 3rd and 4th-generations are also found with birth defects.
Today I don’t want to talk about the relation between AO and severe consequences it has on people which have been clearly pointed out. In stead, I would like to discuss measures that we can support Vietnamese AO victims.
To alleviate the heavy pain that Vietnamsee AO victims are suffering, we need:
1. Material conditions for the care, treatment and rehabilitation of the victims, both old and young.
2. Vocational training and job creation to help the young victims support themselves and integrate to the community, and if possible, get married and lead a happy life as other normal citizens.
3. Equipment for healthcare sector from grassroots level to detect cancer and fetal defects to avoid the baby born with disabilities which is a heavy burden not only to the families but also to the society and cause psychological pain for the AO-exposed parents.
More specifically, I would like to give out the following recommendations :
First: providing financial assistance to build and operate nursery centres for lonely victims. These centres also provide healthcare, treatment, operation, rehabilitation and appropriate vocational training. We should provide equipment as well as tranfer rehabilitation technique not only for their movement but also their language and cognitive development.
Second: Provide ultrasound machines and basic testing equipment for the revolutionary areas which are also the far flung, remote areas where living conditions are low, for early detection of cancers and fetal defects.
Third: Provide equipment for detoxifying dioxin out of human body.
Fourth: Quickly detoxifying the AO-contaminated areas. Besides the three hotspots, namely Da Nang, Bien Hoa and Phu Cat airbases, some other smaller airbases are also contaminated, such as: A So, A Luoi. People in those areas are advised not to use natural water from ponds, lakes, and wells. They have to travel a long distance to get clean and safe water for daily usage. We have built some lakes on the mountain peaks for storing water for them but still not enough.
Recently Vietnam has been focusing on socio-economic development, hunger eradication and poverty reduction and has realised almost all millenium development goals. However, our country is still an agricultural and developing one which is on the way to industrialization. We are still facing a number of difficulties while there are too many AO victims hence we can’t cover all the necessary expense for them depites thousands of billion Vietnamese dongs being spent each year. VAVA and the whole society are joining hands to support the victims but we are unable to provide assistance for the huge number of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation victims.
For this reason, I hope that at this conference, we will seek concrete and effective measures for cooperation to alleviate the pains of Vietnamese AO victims, especially the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation ones.
By Professor, Doctor Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, VAVA Vice Presiden