Translated by Ollie Richardson
40 years ago the Vietnam war ended, but its consequences are still being felt today. On 10th August 1961, with the aim of destroying the jungle where the Vietcong hid, first the US sprayed the mixture of defoliants and herbicides of synthetic origin called Agent Orange on South Vietnam.
The number of victims of the chemicals during the war was more than three million people. Today more than one million children and teenagers are born disabled, suffering from hereditary diseases. How today’s life is for victims of the Vietnam war is shown in the “Kommersant” photo gallery.
In 1961 the US army during the Vietnam war sprayed a mixture of defoliants and herbicides of synthetic origin called Agent Orange on southern Vietnam and Laos. The number of victims of chemicals reached 4 million people. Forty years later, Vietnam is home to around 3 million people suffering from serious hereditary diseases.
The relationship between the use of Agent Orange and the birth of an entire generation of sick children is still not proven, but, according to the UN, the active ingredient of Agent Orange, dioxine, is “one of the most toxic compounds known to mankind”, and is able to cause congenital deformities, mental disabilities, and cancer.
Even during application of Agent Orange it became known that the dioxine contained in it causes cancer and genetic mutations to those who came into contact with it. During the Vietnamese war 14% of the territory of Vietnam was affected.
Since 1980, victims of chemicals have been trying to get compensation through litigation, including by manufacturers of these chemicals (Dow Chemical and Monsanto). In 1984, veterans of the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada received compensation. Vietnamese soldiers received compensation in 2006 alone. Vietnamese civilian casualties were denied compensation.
In the photo is the 38-year-old Doan Thong Gam. She lives in captivity in a closed room without furniture for 16 years due to a mental disorder resulting in aggressive behavior. Her father was a soldier during the war, came under the spray, and is now also gravely ill.
Some children are born healthy, but after a year or two their development stops. These teens may look quite normal, but they do not know how to speak, read, write, and take care of themselves.
As a rule, the disease is associated with constant pain, but most Vietnamese can’t afford anaesthesia and had to endure constant torment.
The US government denies the fact that hereditary diseases are caused by the use of Agent Orange, claiming that birth defects may be the result of malnutrition or the influence of environmental factors.
Today in Vietnam there are more and more houses for children with illnesses abandoned by their parents.
Japanese scientists, who were involved in the comparison of infected and uninfected territories in the early 2000’s, found that in infected areas there was a three times higher risk of having children with a cleft palate, extra fingers and toes, and other deformities.
How many more generations of Vietnamese will suffer from the mutations associated with the use of Agent Orange is unknown.
Some patients are young people who have come to South Vietnam recently and their children. Diseases are manifested in them due to the fact that Agent Orange is still in the soil and water, and many residents of these places feed on what they grow in the garden.
The head of the interfaith delegation, President of the Jewish Council for public Affairs, US Rabbi Stiv Gutov: “Looking at the consequences of the use of Agent Orange was hard. And knowing that we in some measure are involved — the thought would not leave my head. As a person who considers America a great country, it was hard for me”.
The United States began the work of cleaning the soil and water from dioxine, which is scheduled to be completed by 2016. However, to judge the effectiveness of the measures will only be possible after 10-15 years, experts say.
The war ended in 1975, Agent Orange was sprayed for 10 years, but many Vietnamese have learned about the use of chemicals only 20 years after the tragedy. For one of the worst war crimes no one has since been held accountable.
In the photo is ex-soldier Do Duk Du in the cemetery which he had built to bury their 12 children. All of them were born with these or other problems of development. Several of the graves are empty. Do Duk Du dug them for their daughters who are still alive, but terminally and seriously ill.
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