Horrors of Agent Orange linger in Vietnam

  • 21/08/2013

Although the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam ended over 40 years ago, its effects are still being felt. 

United States forces used the defoliant to wipe out vegetation, but its true impact was felt by people.

Minh Anh was abandoned on a rubbish dump when he was a baby and has lived in a ward at Tu Du Obstetrics Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City for more than 11 years.

He's often tied to his chair - the doctors say it's for his own safety.

Minh Anh has a rare disease that causes his skin to flake. It's earned him the nickname 'Fish' from the other children.

At the hospital's special ward, the horrendous legacy of Agent Orange lives on through children. Some are toddlers. One 17-year-old girl has been bedridden her whole life.

"The children at the Peace Village have many different problems caused by Agent Orange," says Tu Du Hospital rehabilitation department chief, Dr Nguyen Thi Phuong Tan.

"Some are deaf or blind; others are missing limbs."

Abnormal head swelling due to a condition called hydrocephalus is also common, as are skin problems like Minh Anh's, and reduced mental capacity.

But in each case, the cause is from the same thing – inherited genetic malformations because their parents, grandparents or even great grandparents were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

It's places like here at the Tu Du Obstetrics Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City that the cost of the war is still being felt. Here innocent children born three generations after the end of the Vietnam War are still paying the cost for something they had nothing to do with.

The US sprayed 45 million litres of the herbicide Agent Orange over Vietnam between 1961 and 1971. It was used to destroy vegetation – both crops and cover for the Viet Cong.

Agent Orange contained dioxins – one of the world's most toxic group of chemical compounds –  and is linked to cancers, birth defects and other health problems in both the local Vietnamese population and war veterans, including New Zealand soldiers.

"Here at the Peace Village we look after 60 children," says Dr Nguyen. "Although children are still being born with defects from Agent Orange, the number is decreasing.

Following years of continued denial of responsibility, the US last year began a clean-up of one of the most contaminated areas, the Da Nang Airport in central Vietnam.

The project comes at a cost of $54 million, a bargain in comparison to the price children like Minh Anh continue to pay.

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source: newshub archive