US, Vietnam face Agent Orange legacy
“We have globally, collectively, agreed that this stuff is bad,” Koos Neefies an adviser on dioxin to the United Nations in Hanoi.
The legacy of Agent Orange has been a deep scar on the Vietnamese people. Agent Orange and other herbicides were widely used during the Vietnam War as part of the U.S.’s defoliant program to reduce the dense jungle foliage where enemy troops were frequently hiding. Agent Orange contains the carcinogenic compound dioxin which has been frequently associated with birth deformities, soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Four decades later, U.S. and Vietnamese officials are still dealing with the ramification of Agent Orange. Numerous programs have emerged over the years to support decontamination for affected areas as well as provide care and compensation for victims. The cleanup process has been slow because the US and Vietnam did not normalize relations until 1995. It wasn’t until 12 years later that the US approved 3 million dollars for dioxin mitigation and health programs in Vietnam. However, full-scale decontamination has yet to begin and could take years. Many Agent Orange “hot spots” have been identified by U.S. and Vietnamese officials including the old US bases in Danang, Bien Hoa and Phu Cat.
The decontamination efforts will require transporting tainted soil to a landfill before it can be decontaminated by biotechnology or other methods. This process can cost 60 million dollars or more for all three military bases. President Obama signed a bill this year ensuring twice the assistance to 6 million dollars.
For many, compensation and assistance is needed now. Hoang Thi The, 71, a widow who lives near Danang airport, has been supporting her two disabled children, 31 and 35, for many years. The is hoping to receive some compensation from the 6 million dollars signed by Obama in order to help her children.
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