Vietnamese AO victims (Photo: VNA)

Brussels (VNA) – Efforts to deal with consequences of Agent Orange (AO)/dioxin should focus on environmental improvement and long-term support for AO victims along with dioxin remediation activities, heard a seminar held at the European Parliament (EP)’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on November 28.

The event was co-organised by the Vietnam-EU Parliamentary Friendship Group in the EP and the US’s Aspen Institute, with the participation of representatives from some foreign embassies in Belgium and EP agencies.

Chris Keyskens, president of the international AO victims’ Belgium chapter, said Vietnamese AO victims need support to have better lives.

According to her, as of late 2017, the Belgium chapter had presented 18,414 EUR to the victims, and the association aims to help disabled AO child victims to go to school and provide capital for families of AO victims  in Hoi An city, Vietnam’s central province of Quang Nam, to promote their own production activities.

Dr. Charles Bailey, former Director of the Aspen Institute Agent Orange in Vietnam Programme, introduced the book titled “From Enemies to Partners – Vietnam, the US and Agent Orange” that he co-wrote with Dr. Le Ke Son, former Vice Director-General of the Vietnam Environmental Administration.

In the book, the authors pointed out severe consequences of dioxin on Vietnamese people as well as local environment over the past half century.

Since 2007, Vietnam and the US have begun to join hands in addressing the consequences.

During the 2007-2018 period, the US Government has allocated a total of 136 million USD to the work. The money has been used to remediate dioxin-polluted soil at Da Nang, Bien Hoa and Phu Cat airports, and fund health care services for victims in seriously-contaminated zones, he added.

Vietnamese Ambassador to Belgium and head of the Vietnamese Mission to the EU Vu Anh Quang said the seminar is one of the major events of the EU-Vietnam relations this year, helping improve public awareness of AO/dioxin and seek solutions to address its consequences.

The US army sprayed some 80 million litres of toxic chemicals in Vietnam during the war, 61 percent of which was Agent Orange, containing 366kg of dioxin. As a result, more than 3 million ha of forested land was destroyed, while basic water and food sources for millions of people were contaminated.

Preliminary statistics showed that 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange/dioxin. Tens of thousands of people died from exposure, while millions of others went on to suffer from cancer and other incurable diseases. Children and grand children of many victims have been affected with widespread birth deformities.-VNA