The United States Agency for International Development has pledged $50 million to support Agent Orange victims in seven Vietnamese provinces.
USAID, as the agency is commonly known, had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Office of the Standing Board for the National Committee on the Settlement of Post-War Unexploded Ordnance and Toxic Chemical Consequences last April to support programs for people with disabilities in areas severely affected by Agent Orange the U.S. had used during the war.
Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue, Quang Nam, and Binh Dinh Provinces in the central region and Dong Nai, Binh Phuoc and Tay Ninh in the south were intensively sprayed with the toxic defoliant, leaving more than 163,000 people with disabilities now, the government news site reported.
Christopher Abrams, head of USAID’s Environment and Social Development, said at a seminar on Monday that the aid would help boost the country’s ability to take care of, treat and rehabilitate AO victims, improve their living conditions and enable them to integrate with society.
The U.S. has been joining hands with Vietnam for projects to overcome the consequences of the war and support Agent Orange victims, he said.
Nine U.S. senators joined Vietnamese officials last April to start a dioxin cleanup project at Bien Hoa airport, the most contaminated spot in the country.
It is expected to take at least 10 years and cost $390 million to clean 150,000 cubic meters of soil by 2025.
Between 1961 and 1971, the U.S. Army sprayed some 80 million liters of Agent Orange over 78,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles) of southern Vietnam.
Dioxin, a highly toxic chemical present in the defoliant, stays in the soil and at the bottom of lakes and rivers for generations. It can enter the food chain through meat, fish and other animals, and has been found in alarmingly high levels in human breast milk.
Between 2.1 million and 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals that have been linked to cancers, birth defects and other chronic diseases before the war ended in April 1975, according to the Vietnam Red Cross.