The largest chemical warfare campaign in the history of the world ended in 1975, but its damaging effects on human health continue to this day. Between 1961 and 1971, the US army sprayed 80 million liters of Agent Orange, containing 366 kilograms of dioxin over 30,000 square miles of southern Vietnam. Between 2.1 to 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides during the Vietnam War and have suffered the vicious effects of the toxic defoliant, including birth defects and cancer, for more than 40 years.
Hands-On Saigon began assisting victims of Agent Orange in 2000. By January 2011, 48 poor families had been provided with 60 piglets, 17 cows and 11 water buffaloes. In some cases a small gift of cash was also given for feed, tools, and shelters.
One hundred handicapped children, pictured on the right below, who suffer from the deforming effects of Agent Orange received a donation of medical equipment and other gifts at Thanh Xuan Peace Village in Hanoi.
More recently (December 2010-January 2011), assistance was provided for nine of these needy AO families in the rural area of central Thanh Hoa province, one of the poorest areas in Vietnam. Each family was given a young heifer and in one case, a shelter was also built to house the young cow. The heifers, which all looked very healthy and well cared for, were younger than those donated in previous years.
Hands-On Saigon team members pose with one of the recipients and his new heifer next to an enormous haystack. The document shown below declares that it has been officially confirmed through testing that the man’s illness was caused by the dioxin Agent Orange. It is rare for AO victims to have such proof, as the government no longer pays for the expensive testing.
This AO victim insisted on serving tea, a thoughtful demonstration of hospitality, even though his afflictions made every movement difficult. His little son was very nervous about the foreigners—the first he’d ever seen. The bamboo “bong” on the table is a common item in many houses and is used for smoking locally grown tobacco. On the right, the young farmer is emerging from the shelter with his new heifer.
Below is a second generation AO victim (Down’s syndrome) who really loves his new heifer. Kjell (left) befriended the young man on the right, also second generation AO victim, whose parents died. He will look after the new heifer with the help of his grandmother.
Below are phtos of another AO family with a Down’s syndrome daughter. Three of their other 4 children were also born handicapped, but died young. Pictured on the right is the severely handicapped daughter of another poor farmer contaminated by AO. She’s over 30, but is more like a two-year old, living in her own world.
In the photo below, two heifers share the same shelter, as one of the two new owners (on the right) had no place to keep his heifer, yet. So, Hands-On Saigon gave an additional donation to help this AO victim build a simple shelter for his young cow.