HA NOI — Ho Quang Thai has never been able to stray far from his parents even though he is 18-years-old as he is paralysed. He is an ‘indirect' victim of Agent Orange/dioxin, a deadly toxin that was used by the US during the war.
Thai is the second son of Ho Minh Quang, who lives near the Bien Hoa airport area in southern Dong Nai Province.
The war ended four decades ago but the suffering continues for Quang and his family. Quang said that though he had not joined resistance forces, he had still been exposed to the toxin.
"When I was a child, I often played at Bien Hoa airport but I did not know what Agent Orange was," he said sadly. When his two children were born with severe deformities, he realised that he had been contaminated with the toxin.
Nguyen Thi Thuy, a resident of Tan Phong Ward in the province's Bien Hoa City said that since 2009, the number of AO victims in her neighbourhood had seemingly been increasing.
Some people came from other parts, were young and had never taken part in any war, but their children still suffered from birth defects, Thuy said.
Four of Nguyen Dang Ninh's six children are blind from birth and have six fingers and six toes.
Ninh, who lives in Ho Nai Ward, said he was really in a tough situation. He did not think that his children could become infected by the chemicals, and he blamed the tragedy on destiny. Now, he is very worried about his two healthy children, concerned that they too could be affected by the toxin without warning.
"Even our future generations may not be safe," said Ninh.
Dao Nguyen, chairwoman of the province's Association for Victims of Agent Orange, said there were more than 13,000 AO victims in the province with 62 per cent of the total being long-time residents. Nearly one forth of these AO victims are under 16 years of age.
The five neighbouring wards around Bien Hoa airport were the most severely affected areas, with the number of victims increasing year by year.
Nguyen said that during the anti-American war of resistance, US armed forces kept more than 98,000 tankers of Agent Orange and other kinds of toxic chemicals in the area. They also sprayed toxins over 50 per cent of the province.
"Companies supplying the toxin must take responsibility," she stressed.
Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Rinh, Chairman of the Vietnamese Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) which represents more than three million Vietnamese AO victims, said that the airport area was expected to be the second dioxin contaminated "hot spot" to be cleaned using the thermal remediation technique.
The new technology uses heat to treat contaminated soil, and was first applied at Da Nang Airport in central Viet Nam. The work at Bien Hoa Airport started yesterday.
Efforts by the Vietnamese Government, people and international opinion on appealing a judgement that cleared the chemicals companies of responsibility have brought initial positive results.
"However, the companies must take responsibility for not only cleaning the environment but also providing health care services for the disabled," he told Viet Nam News.
The association would continue pushing for justice for Vietnamese AO victims while mobilising assistance from foreign and domestic organisations and individuals to ensure AO victims have a better life.
During the first six months of the year, foreign and domestic groups and individuals contributed to more than VND68 billion (US$3.2 million) in funds to the association, bringing the total sum of support received to VND440 billion ($20.9 million).
The money will be used to build houses, provide health care services and supply financial support for AO victims' families. — VNS