Agent Orange victims still suffer the consequences

HANOI (Viet Nam News/ANN) – On the anniversary of the first deployment of Agent Orange during the American War, victims are making steps in the right direction and rebuilding their shattered lives.

It was on August 10, 1961, that the United States (US) military first sprayed Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Fifty-eight years have passed, yet the tragic legacy left behind by the toxic defoliant remains indelible.

Every day, some three million Agent Orange and dioxin victims in Vietnam struggle to survive, living their lives with incurable wounds.

At the age of 20, Pham Thi Thu Diem still sits behind her mother on a morning ride to Da Nang City’s Centre for Agent Orange Victims in Hoa Vang District.

“Diem struggled to learn at school so we let her drop out,” Nguyen Thi Loi, Diem’s mother, told Vietnam News Agency.

“Since an acquaintance introduced us to the centre, we decided to send her here, hoping she will learn to take care of herself,” she added.

After five years at the centre, Diem can write her name and read simple words. She has also demonstrated a special talent for drawing, sewing and making fabric flowers – simple things to many people, yet great achievements for an Agent Orange victim like Diem.

Children from Tu Du Hospital’s Hoa Binh Village pose for a group photo during a teambuilding activity. – VIET NAM NEWS/ANN

According to Deputy Head of Da Nang City Association of Agent Orange/dioxin Victims Tra Thanh Lanh, more than 5,000 people impacted by the chemical in the city face difficulty every day.

The association has provided several vocational training and life skills courses as a way to help them obtain their independence.

The efforts have brightened up the lives of many victims.

“I want to be a tailor,” said Diem when asked about her aspirations.

On a three-wheeled motorcycle, 39-year-old Dang Trinh Bo roams every corner of Hanoi’s outlying district of Thuong Tin, delivering freshly harvested vegetables to local restaurants.

Wiping sweat from his brow, Bo told Ha Noi Moi newspaper that his list of orders seemed endless.

“The job is difficult, but it helps improve the lives of my family,” he said.

Born to parents who were both contaminated with Agent Orange, Bo and his siblings were all impacted by the chemical, suffering intellectual disabilities and mobile impairment.

As the strongest child, Bo set himself a goal of helping his family escape from poverty and earn sustainable livelihoods.

He was offered a vocational training course by a local charity and began a career as an electrician in 2004.

Observing an emerging trend in trading agricultural commodities, he switched careers and now picks vegetables to supply eateries around the district.

The decision has not only improved the lives of Bo’s family but also helped him meet a partner in 2009.

After a decade of hard work, the couple now owns a house and runs a business which is profitable enough to both take care of their two children and support Bo’s siblings.

The three-wheel motorbike accompanies Bo on his journey to pay it forward, helping other victims in worse conditions.

“The seeds of kindness Bo has sown show that no matter our backgrounds, we can still contribute to the community,” said Head of Thuong Tin District Association of Agent Orange/dioxin Victims Chu Thi Phuc.