Wheelchairs Handed Over
The Vietnam War started in 1954 and ended in 1975. It was war that pitted the communist government of North Vietnam against the government of South Vietnam and its major ally, the United States. The war was, in a way, a manifestation of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The war is said to have been considered by the US as a way of stopping the spread of communism in the region. However, the war inevitably became devastating, eventually leaving as many as 2 million Vietnamese civilians, 1.1 million North Vietnamese soldiers, 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers and 58,000 U.S. servicemen.
This death count, sadly, was not the end of the devastation. The U.S. action of turning the war into a chemical warfare would come to have more damaging and more long-lasting effects on the people of Vietnam. The chemical used is called ‘Agent Orange’, it is a herbicide and defoliant chemical and was at the core of the U.S. military’s chemical warfare program called Operation Ranch Hand.
Up to 4 million people in Vietnam were exposed to this defoliant and the Vietnamese government says as many as 3 million people have suffered illness because of the same. The Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that up to 1 million people are disabled or have health problems as a result of Agent Orange. Studies have linked Agent Orange to birth defects, mental disabilities, cleft palate and hernias. Unfortunately, people in the most affect areas continue to live in substandard conditions with many genetic diseases.
Similarly, the environmental damage of Agent Orange in Vietnam is enormous. Over 2.1 million hectares of forest were defoliated which has made reforestation difficult. Animal species diversity in these areas reduced sharply compared with areas that were not contaminated by Agent Orange. The use of Agent Orange also left contaminated soil and sediment that continue to affect the people of Vietnam as it poisons their food chain and causes illnesses like serious skin diseases and a variety of cancer in the lungs, larynx and prostate.
All of this has destroyed the ability of many people to make a living or live a healthy life. This is why the Trust’s first project was to raise enough money to get wheelchairs for victims. This project was carried out in May 2004 in the town of A Luoi. Bruce Montgomery, one of the trustees, handed over 30 wheelchairs to the people living in this area.