The participants at a discussion held in North Carolina in the US were informed that 30 million USD has been raised to help Vietnam decontaminate Agent Orange hot spots and provide services for children with birth defects linked with exposure to AO.

At the discussion, held at Wake Forest University on February 18, various speakers informed the participants that the initiative to call for 300 million USD over 10 years to help Vietnam clean and revive the ecosystem and expand services for people with disabilities is making progress, and so far, about 10 percent of the money has been raised, including a pledge of 15 million USD from the US government.

The speakers were people who work to clean up contaminated areas and provide services to children with birth defects linked with Agent Orange. One of the speakers, Charles Bailey, Director of the Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin for the Ford Foundation said: "Agent Orange's toxic legacy continues in 28 'hot spots' where the level of dioxin remains dangerously high in southern Vietnam ."

Dealing with this issue is just part of the "unfinished business" left over from the Vietnam War, said Bailey.

Each of the speakers was involved in some capacity with Children of Vietnam, a North Carolina - based nonprofit organisation that provides assistance to poor and disabled Vietnamese children. Founded in 1998, Children of Vietnam is dedicated to working to improve the lives of children in need of food, medicine, housing, and education.

Catherine Karnow, a photographer whose work has appeared in National Geographic and the Smithsonian, had recently returned from Vietnam .

"When I told people I was going to photograph victims of Agent Orange they thought I was going to photograph people who were 75 or 85," said Karnow said. "But there are 150,000 Vietnamese children with diseases attributable to Agent Orange."

On taking the floor, Dannia Southerland, a fellow in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University also in North Carolina , said it was necessary to help Vietnamese children and give them hope. Southerland is helping Vietnam to design a care system that will give these children access to medical, educational and vocational services.

The Winston-Salem Journal, a daily newspaper in Northwest North Carolina , wrote:

"In the 1960s, the U.S. military sprayed more than 12 million gallons of a powerful herbicide called Agent Orange on 5 million acres of Vietnam to defoliate the undergrowth and expose the enemy.

"It did defoliate plants, but in the process millions of people, including a American servicemen, were exposed to Agent Orange. It contained dioxin, a contaminant linked to cancer, birth defects and other disabilities.

"Overall, an estimated 4.5 million Vietnamese and hundreds of thousands of American soldiers were exposed."

The discussion at Wake Forest University is one of many activities being held in the US within the framework of the Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin.

Earlier, on February 16, a discussion on Agent Orange was held at the University of North Carolina . During this, many U.S. experts said that lingering health and environmental problems from Agent Orange have affected an estimated 3 million Vietnamese, including 150,000 children.

Bailey confirmed that helping Vietnam to deal with the aftermaths of Agent Orange "is a humanitarian issue, and we can do something about it"./.