ĐIỆN BIÊN – Lương Hậu Tân, director of the Mường Chà District Health Centre in the northern highland province of Điện Biên, says he has seen an increasing number of suicide attempts by villagers drinking weed killers.
The latest case concerns 31-year-old Giàng Thánh Giống and his wife Hạng Thị Của, who were found on June 26 after drinking herbicide. They were taken to the Huổi Lèng Commune Clinic for emergency treatment and transferred to Mường Chà District Health Center. The couple’s life was saved, and it transpired that their decision had been prompted by domestic conflict.
This was one of five conflict-driven suicide attempts using herbicide to have occurred in the Hmong ethnic group communes of Huổi Lèng, Sa Lông and Trung Dình in Mường Chà District in June and July.
Hạng A Páo of Cổng Trời Village in Sa Lông Commune tried to kill himself in a similar way. On July 19, after an argument with his wife, Hồ Thị Cau, he swallowed about 10ml of herbicide. Fortunately, relatives helped him vomit and brought him to the health centre.
Tráng A Lồng, head of the Huổi Lèng Commune Clinic, attributes the problem to people’s lack of awarness of conflict resolution options and the easy accessibility of herbicides in rural areas.
Tân said those exposed to Paraquat herbicide could suffer irreversible organ failure and death. To prevent inadvertent poisoning and suicide attempts he recommended tightening herbicide management and rushing those affected to medical treatment.
Paraquat posioning is not unique to Điện Biên Province. It is estimated that the poison is responsible for 1,000 deaths annually in Việt Nam. A dose of 5ml results in a fatality rate of 90 per cent, according to doctors from Ha Noi’s Bạch Mai Hospital.
"Dying because of paraquat ís scary since patients are conscious until they die," said Nguyễn Trung Nguyên, head of the Poision Control Centre at Bạch Mai Hospital.
Therefore, doctors advise replacing Paraquat with other herbicides for home use, and educating people who use it about its lethal effects. – VNS