Archive for August, 2011

Success: More than 900 Agent Orange Badges Posted!

 

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THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the recent Agent Orange Day Facebook badge campaign! To date, a total of 909 Agent Orange Badges have been posted, building on our growing network of supporters and advocates dedicated to ending the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam and around the world. Together, we’ve made yet another stride in making Agent Orange history.

Additionally, a special thank you to our partners in this effort: Vietnam Volunteer Network, Daughters of Vietnam Veterans, OneVietnam Network, Agent Orange Legacy, Faces of Agent Orange, Vietnam Friendship Village Project USA, The Aspen Institute, The U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange, Vietnam Reporting Project, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, Kids Without Borders, War Legacies Project and The Public Health Institute’s Dialogue for Health and many more Facebook pages and blogs who posted the Agent Orange Badge.

 

Agent Orange Contamination Confirmed at former U.S. airbase in Vietnam

 

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The impact of Agent Orange continues to haunt many in Vietnam. The reason is largely related to dioxin, a deadly contaminant present in the herbicide. In addition to being one of the most toxic substances known to man, dioxin has a long half-life, meaning that even though Agent Orange was sprayed decades ago, the dioxin persists in the environment at concentrations that can still impact human health.

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Researchers test for dioxin by sampling blood from residents of Bien Hoa.

Canadian environmental firm Hatfield Consultants recently confirmed that the site of a former U.S. airbase in Bien Hoa is among several Agent Orange ‘hot spots’ contaminated with dioxin. Over the course of several years, Hatfield and Vietnamese scientists found dioxin levels in soils at up to 265,000 parts per trillion – an amount that is several hundred times the level most governments consider acceptable.* By comparison, this is similar to concentrations found at Da Nang Airport, where a massive cleanup is underway.

The bottom line, according to Hatfield’s Director of International Operations, Thomas Boivin: “Cleanup of Agent Orange hotspots at Bien Hoa and other locations in Vietnam needs to be undertaken immediately to protect the local population from exposure to dioxins.”

*The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry considers dioxin levels above 1,000 parts per trillion to require remediation.

 

A $72 Million Investment in Vietnam’s Future

 

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Check out this chart from our partner the Aspen Institute. Since 2001, more than $72 million has been committed by donors outside of Vietnam to address the long-term impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam. More than $20 million of that total has been committed since the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group released their Plan of Action in June of 2010.

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David Bruce Shear named U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam

 

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Make Agent Orange History_dioxin_Vietnam_DavidShear_150_1Last week, David B. Shear was confirmed as Ambassador to Vietnam. He was formerly Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Having joined the Foreign Service in 1982, Shear has served in locations throughout East Asia and has served in the Offices of Japanese, Chinese and Korean Affairs in Washington, DC. We congratulate Shear on the appointment!

 

Agent Orange and Vietnam: Ending A 50-Year Legacy

 

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(Editor’s note: The following is an op-ed by Constance Morella, a former member of Congress (R) from Maryland, and Bob Edgar, a former member of Congress (D) from Pennsylvania. They led a bipartisan delegation to Vietnam to look at the problems of Agent Orange in that country.)

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Members of the delegation meet with Mr. Nguyen Van Minh, Chairman of the Da Nang Peoples Committee. (From left to right: Nguyen Van Minh, Charles Bailey, Bob Edgar and Constance Morella.)

August marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Ranch Hand by U.S. military forces during the war in Vietnam. Over the course of 10 years from 1961 until 1971, more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides were stored, mixed, handled by U.S. troops and sprayed by U.S. airplanes over millions of acres of Vietnamese forest and farmland. The goal of this military operation was to deny cover to the enemy on the ground.

The U.S. government now compensates U.S. Vietnam-era veterans for 15 serious health conditions and one birth defect related to exposure to the dioxin that was part of those herbicides.

But some three million Vietnamese also suffered health effects, including 150,000 of today’s children with birth defects. Their needs have long been neglected, caught in the geopolitical and scientific conflict that followed the war. The Vietnamese government, several U.S. foundations, and non-governmental organizations have set up hospitals and small remediation programs, but so far these have met less than 10 percent of the need.

However, the devastating legacy of Agent Orange, one remaining shadow of that war, is on the way to being resolved in Vietnam – if current trends continue. We may have disagreed on many things in the past, but on a recent trip to Vietnam we witnessed a new spirit of cooperation and partnership among former adversaries. All sides are now determined to address the health and environmental damage from Agent Orange, damage that continues to this day.

At a church-run center near Ho Chi Minh City, we knelt on the floor to meet Nguyen Van Minh, 14, one of 60 severely disabled children receiving medical care and rehabilitation there. Like any child, he giggled and sang along with us to a silly song about fishies as other children competed to hold our hands and give us hugs. Their simple joy in life transcends partisan differences, making it clear that the way to see the Agent Orange legacy now is as a humanitarian concern that we can do something about.

Our former colleagues in Congress are in agreement on this, as on few other things, so that $18.5 million for Agent Orange remediation in Vietnam survived the recent 2011 appropriations battle. At former U.S. military bases, starting with the Da Nang airport, the U.S. Agency for International Development is already at work cleaning up deadly “hot spots” of dioxin residues that are still making people sick where the herbicides spilled and soaked into the ground. The State Department is beginning a new $34 million cleanup project at Da Nang, and David Shear, awaiting Senate confirmation to serve as the new U.S. ambassador, pledged at his confirmation hearing to continue assistance for Vietnam’s disabled citizens without regard to cause.

This is all very good news, reflecting the U.S. mission’s astute understanding that America’s commercial and security interests are well served by addressing the Agent Orange issue. To follow through during this window of opportunity, the United States should adopt a long-term action plan like that drawn up by the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin, a nonpartisan group of prominent scientists, policymakers and citizens from both countries sponsored by the Aspen Institute.

For an investment of $30 million a year over 10 years, shared with Vietnam and other donors, the Dialogue Group plan would restore damaged ecosystems, clean up the contaminated soils and expand humanitarian services to people with disabilities. Advances in technology and know-how have made this possible, and now is the time to do it.

America is at its best when it responds to humanitarian concerns, restores hope and dignity to a devastated people and closes wounds from the past. Helping innocent children like Minh, who are suffering from their parents’ exposure to Agent Orange/dioxin, is a treatment that can heal us all.

 

Change Your Profile Picture to the Agent Orange Badge

 

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MOAH_Agent Orange_dioxin_Vietnam_Facebook badge

The Agent Orange Badge

In honor of Agent Orange Day, August 10th, we are calling on concerned individuals to post the Agent Orange Badge to their Facebook wall and change their profile pictures (read original post here).

We have a Facebook application that makes it easy to do this, or alternatively, post the badge to your wall then use this step-by-step guide to change your profile picture to the Agent Orange Badge manually.

  1. Download the Agent Orange Badge from the Make Agent Orange History Facebook page.
  2. Go to your Facebook profile.
  3. Scroll your mouse over your profile picture and click “Change Picture”
  4. Upload the Agent Orange Badge.
  5. You’re done. Click “Profile” in the upper right to see your new profile picture.

Thanks for helping raising awareness of this tragic legacy of war.

 

Understanding the Plan of Action

 

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Decades after the war, harmful effects of Agent Orange are still being felt by millions in Vietnam, including children. In 2007, responding to this humanitarian concern, the Ford Foundation convened a bi-national committee of private citizens, scientists and policy-makers working to address the long-term impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

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The U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group briefs Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

In June 2010 the group, known as the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group, released a comprehensive 10-year strategy to address the long-term impact of Agent Orange/dioxin in Vietnam. The Plan calls on a shared investment of $300 million dollars to clean dioxin-contaminated soils, restore damaged ecosystems and expand services to people with disabilities. The Dialogue Group wrote:

“The Plan would be carried out in three phases over ten years and would cost an estimated $300 million. It would offer a significant part of the long-term solution to the Agent Orange/dioxin legacy in Vietnam. The U.S. government should play a key role in meeting these costs, along with other public and private donors, supplementing an appropriate continuing investment from the government and people of Vietnam.”

Specifically, the Plan proposes five key areas of action:

  • To improve the lives of Vietnamese with disabilities.
  • To contain and clean up dioxin at three priority ‘hot spots’.
  • To set up a modern dioxin testing laboratory in Vietnam.
  • To foster programs training the Vietnamese in the restoration and management of damaged landscapes.
  • To educate the U.S. public on the issue.

America is at its best when it responds to humanitarian concerns, restores hope and dignity to a devastated people and closes wounds from the past. We all have an opportunity to do this in Vietnam today.

Read the full Plan, then: Join the Dialogue Group in calling for a new future for Vietnam »

 

Stand Together on Agent Orange Day

 

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Agent Orange Day is August 10th. It marks the day in 1961 when the U.S. began aerial spraying of toxicMake Agent Orange History_Vietnam_dioxin_Agent Orange Day_Badge_11 herbicides over Vietnam. This year, Agent Orange Day will take on a special significance as it marks the 50th anniversary of that fateful day.

In honor and support of people who have been affected by Agent Orange, we are launching a Facebook badge campaign calling on people across the world to post the Agent Orange Badge to their Facebook walls and change their profile pictures. Together we can send a powerful message: You are not alone.

Stand with the millions of men, women and children affected by Agent Orange: Post the Agent Orange Badge and change your Facebook profile picture »

Millions of people in Vietnam, the United States and other countries continue to suffer from the effects of Agent Orange. This is a chance for diverse communities – from American veterans, to young Vietnamese, to family members of those whose lives were lost – to come together in support of all those who continue to suffer from the effects of Agent Orange.

Our goal is 1000 badges posted by Agent Orange Day. Help us get there by posting the Agent Orange Badge today »

P.s. Prefer to change your profile picture manually? Click here for instructions.