Aug. 10 is marked Agent Orange Day to show support for those affected by the dioxin in Vietnam. Post this Agent Orange Day Badge to your Facebook profile to show support for victims of agent orange. Invite friends to do the same here:
http://www.facebook.comMakeAgentOrangeHistory?v=app_139564296078062For further discussions on this topic, log on to www.onevietnam.org.To understand more about what Agent Orange is, please watch this video:
The legacy of Agent Orange is still very much alive today. While the war ended many decades ago, its chilling aftermath still lingers today and affects over 150,000 children in Vietnam. To refresh your knowledge about this harmful chemical, please read the article Understanding Agent Orange.
While VTP has published numerous articles describing Agent Orange, a common question (and debate) has surfaced time and again regarding how to address the Agent Orange legacy. Today’s article will review current approaches to this problem while offering a historical perspective on the progress made thus far.
The following information reflects the efforts of the Ford Foundation and its many partners.
The First Phase – Test and Contain
The Ford Foundation and its grantees developed a multifaceted approach to test and contain dioxin-contaminated soils, restore landscapes, develop treatments and support centers for affected Vietnamese, and educate the US public and policymakers. Towards these efforts, the Ford Foundation has since 2000 brought in new supporters and foundations and has committed $12 million.
Most importantly, the initial phase called for collaborative efforts between the US and Vietnam to identify, contain, and clean-up dioxin “hot spots”. The story begins in 2000.
A grant of $150,000 made to the Vietnam Red Cross Agent Orange Victims Fund provided a valuable opportunity to obtain an “on-the-ground” perspective of the “profound impact of Agent Orange and how much remained to be done”.
Around this time, a study released by the Vietnam Ministry of Health-Hatfield environmental consulting firm showed that “high levels of dioxin remains at former US military bases”. This suggested that dioxin was “principally a point-source pollutant” and that an effective containment strategy would focus on these “hot spots”.
To test this “hot spot hypothesis”, the Ford Foundation granted $289,000 to the Vietnam Ministry of Health and Hatfield to survey former US military bases. The study, conducted between 2002-2005, showed that 28 military sites contained significant amount of dioxin. The results of these studies provided an opportunity to engage the US government.
The Next Step – Diplomatic Breakthroughs
In 2003, Ford funded a conference held in Washington D.C. on “The Future of the US-Vietnam Relationship”. The conference involved dialogues among “senior officials of both governments” and “academics, NGOs, and the business community” on topics of trade agreements, etc. The conference also addressed the “most difficult subject of all” – the legacies of war and Agent Orange. The outcome of this conference helped propel the Agent Orange issue into “international politics and diplomatic arena”.
In November of 2006, a diplomatic breakthrough occurred when President George W. Bush and President Nguyen Minh Triet issued a joint statement on Agent Orange stating that both nations acknowledged the dioxin problem and agreed to address this issue in order to continue “development of [US-VN] bilateral relationship”.
In February of 2007, former US Ambassador to Vietnam, Michael Marine, secured $400,000 in government funding for “remediation at Da Nang”, an area heavily affected by Agent Orange. The Ford Foundation contributed an additional $1.3 million to this project.
Current Strategy – Engage the Public
While Ford and its partners have been successful in many projects in the past, the future of “effective and sustainable programs over time would require more than the support of two governments and courageous grantees”. The current strategy has been to initiate a “citizen-to-citizen dialogue to raise awareness of people in the US” including officials and business leaders.
In 2007, the US-VN Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin met “to advance a humanitarian approach”. The group made a significant impact by briefing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and State Department officials in addition to testifying at Congressional hearings. The result of such lobbying efforts led Congress to appropriate $3 million for Agent Orange/dioxin work in Vietnam for the fiscal years 2007, 2009, 2010.
Ford and 4 other foundations will continue to support the Dialogue Group and its mission to “address the health and environmental consequences of Agent Orange”. The Dialogue Group has contributed to “strengthening health services for people with disabilities, helped upgrade medical facilities, trained healthcare workers, and provided surgeries, therapy, education and job opportunities”.
Other efforts include an innovative case-management system in Da Nang which promotes “equal opportunities for young adults with disabilities, support self-help groups, challenged the stigma and discrimination, and continue public education in the US and Vietnam.”
Social Media, Web 2.0 and the World
Any movement towards a noble cause requires a strong focus on public outreach and education. The legacy of Agent Orange and the future of remediation efforts by foundations and non-profit groups must focus on ways (and venues) to reach out to the public.
The phenomenon of the web 2.0 and the popularity of social media has become the prime vehicle for news delivery and social awareness. OneVietnam Network is committed to educating and engaging the public about the impact of Agent Orange and current efforts to help victims of this toxic chemical.
For more stories about Agent Orange, please read our other features on VTP.