President Tran Dai Quang speaks at the ceremony on August 10 (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The 55th Agent Orange (AO) Day in Vietnam was commemorated in Hanoi on August 10 when President Tran Dai Quang said the settlement of chemical toxin consequences is an urgent and long-term issue and also the conscience and responsibility of the whole political system and people.

At the ceremony, Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Rinh, Chairman of the Vietnam Association of Victims of AO/Dioxin (VAVA), said that on August 10, 1961, the US army began spraying the so-called “herbicide” in Vietnam, triggering the biggest and longest chemical warfare with the most catastrophic consequences in human history.

The date of August 10 has become the day for AO/dioxin victims to remind people of the disaster on the environment and human health, and call for joint efforts to ease the AO pain, he noted.

From 1961 to 1971, the US army sprayed 80 million litres of toxic chemicals, 61 percent of which was AO that contained at least 366kg of dioxin – the most toxic substance ever known in history, on nearly 25 percent of the area of southern Vietnam. That made 4.8 million Vietnamese people expose to the toxins, and more than 3 million of them were victims.

Dioxin has made many women infertile while a large number of children were born with deformities. Notably, its impacts are long-lasting as there have been fourth-generation victims, Rinh added.

Susan Schnall, a US veteran who took part in the US’s war in Vietnam and now head of the New York branch of Veterans for Peace organisation, apologised for AO’s massive destruction to the country.

She vowed to work with Vietnam to deal with the war’s impacts, detoxify contaminated land and care for the victims.

At the commemoration, President Tran Dai Quang expressed deep sympathy for AO victims and hoped that they will keep faith in life.

The Party and State have continually paid attention to AO impact settlement, including offering monthly financial aid and health care for the victims, combining the national action plan on resolving AO impacts with local socio-economic development activities, and calling for domestic and foreign support for the victims.

He appreciated contributions by all-level authorities, businesses, and people at home and abroad to caring for the victims. He also thanked diplomatic agencies and foreign organisations and people for advocating the fight for AO victims’ justice.

Good settlement of AO consequences will also help promote Vietnam – US relations, along with global efforts for peace, cooperation and development, the leader said, calling on people around the world to work together to prevent chemical warfare.

At the ceremony, President Tran Dai Quang presented the VAVA with the Labour Order (first class) for its outstanding performance over the past years.

The association also launched a campaign inviting Vietnamese people and foreigners to support AO victims by texting DACAM to 1409. The campaign lasts from August 10 to September 30.-VNA