Prenatal diagnosis measures for Agent Orange/dioxin victims should receive more investment to minimise the number of babies born with deformities, experts said at a conference to tackle the issue in dioxin-contaminated hotspots on January 11.

According to Le Ke Son, deputy general director of the Vietnam Environment Administration, during the 10 years from 1961, the US Army sprayed more than 18.2 million gallons of Agent Orange (AO) onto more than 10 percent of the land in southern Vietnam.

It is estimated that more than 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to AO/dioxin. Many of the victims have died, while millions of their descendants are living with deformities and diseases due to the effects of AO.

Nguyen Thi Luyen, secretariat deputy chief for the programme studying after-effects of AO/dioxin exposure said there are 22,000-30,000 babies born annually with deformities, accounting for approximately 2 percent of the total newborns.

Among them, the rate of disabled babies born to descendants of dioxin victims is 63 percent higher than those whose parents are not exposed to AO.

Descendants of AO victims suffer 17 AO-related defects where deformities in the bones make up 42 percent and Down syndrome 16 percent. The rate of inborn deformities in the first child of AO victims is higher than the second.

Meanwhile, the rate of pregnancy abnormalities in people exposed to AO is 15.6 percent higher than those who were not.

Based on these statistics, experts suggested the government provide more investment for prenatal diagnosis technologies and form cooperation between hospitals and gene laboratories in conducting prenatal tests.

The government, in coordination with organisations, has been conducting community-based rehabilitation programmes with a view to ensuring quality services and help for all victims and their descendants. -VNA