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A Luoi District struggles to cope with dioxin pollution

Update: January, 23/2006 - 00:00

A Luoi District struggles to cope with dioxin pollution

(23-01-2006)

THUA THIEN HUE — Faced with a camera, a mother in A Ngo Commune in Thua Thien-Hue Province’s A Luoi District hurriedly dries her tears and tries to smile, comforting at the same time her deformed son, one of the many victims of the dreaded Agent Orange in the district, lying in a bed nearby.

"I try to smile so as not to show my sadness to other people," she offers as a way of explaining the tragedy of the present. She is, not alone as though many others share her plight in A Luoi District, which saw a total of 434,812 gallons of Agent Orange being dropped on forests and innocent people during the American War.

According to Nguyen Thi Lieu, chairwoman of the Red Cross Society of A Ngo Commune, as many as 4,327 families in A Luoi District are victims of the toxic defoliant.

The district, which has an estimated popolation of about 39,000 has AO victims equalling the population of two communes.

According to surveyss the US army, according to surveys, has sprayed over 83 million litres of the defoliant, containing 336kg of toxic substance, on more than 80,000 villages in southern Viet Nam, with Dong Son Commune, where the A So Airport, a US military base built in 1960, is located being sprayed with more than 70 gallons per one square kilometre.

The environment around A So Airport is still seriously polluted, and surveys indicate an excessive residue of dioxin on soil and certain foodstuff such as fish fat and chicken at present. "This is where the residue of dioxin is the highest in the country," a survey concluded.

The fear of dioxin has forced many people in the communes of Dong Son, Hong Quang and A Ngo to move out and settle in other areas.

Nguyen Thi Lieu, who fled Dong Son Commune, said that it was impossible for her family to grow anything on the poisoned land, adding that many women from nearby areas gave birth to deformed children with oversized heads or paralysed limbs.

Crime against humanity

Teary-eyed, Nguyen Van Quang points to her daughter Nguyen Thi Hong Duyen, an AO victim, who at 19 cannot sit on her own. Duyen, who was like any other newborn baby, started showing effects of AO after 15 months, and now needs help for everything. "While girls of her age are getting married, my daughter cannot do anything, even sit by herself," Quang says.

Kan Lay from A Ngo Commune has to carry her 17-year-old son everywhere. His body is bent like a banana and his limbs refuse to stretch or bend. Lay takes care of and feeds him with the aid of two helpers.

"They were so cruel. They bombed and sprayed toxic substance to kill Uncle Ho soldiers and our generation during the war. In peace, the toxic substance left by them are killing our children," Lay says, grappling with the inequities of life.

Taking note of the damage caused by AO/dioxin, the US Red Cross Society recently provided an aid of VND333 million through the Red Cross Society of Viet Nam for a project to support 122 families in A Luoi District.

The project, according to Red Cross officials, will provide wheel–chairs for AO victims, and help them repair their houses, and do farming and animal husbandry.

Yet, the number of beneficiaries is far too low compared to the over 18,000 AO cases reported in Thua Thien-Hue Province. — VNS

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