Creating Better Conditions to Support Victims of Agent Orange

To commemorate 60 years of the Agent Orange/dioxin disaster in Vietnam, the Vietnam Times interviewed Vice President of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange Nguyen Van Khanh.

In the past 17 years, what has the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange done to support Agent Orange victims?

Taking care of and supporting victims of Agent Orange and their families are our responsibilities. Over the years, our activities have become more diverse and sustainable. Some of these activities are visiting and presenting gifts, providing financial assistance to help them deal with natural disasters or epidemics, providing free health checks and drugs, and giving them devices for use in daily life.

We also support them in improving livelihoods, providing scholarships, in finding jobs and building and repairing houses, assistance in rehabilitation and health recovery and providing sheltered accommodation.

Victims of Agent Orange. Photo: Vietnam Times

In addition to enduring serious, chronic illnesses and disabilities, victims of Agent Orange and their families are all very poor and often without occupations, so we strive to help them earn stable incomes to overcome poverty and integrate into society.

From when the association was established in January 2004 until December 2020, the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) at all levels has spent over VND 2,536 billion to support victims of Agent Orange and their families.

Specifically, we have built boarding facilities valued at over VND 168 billion in 26 localities, provided financial assistance worth over VND 280 billion to build 6,750 houses of gratitude and over VND 548 billion in healthcare and livelihood support. In addition, we have awarded 11,900 scholarships. Our cash and in-kind contributions are valued at over VND 537 billion.

In the first six months of 2021, the association has paid over VND 218 billion to take care of and support Agent Orange victims. We have repaired 30 houses, built 272 houses, given presents to over 365,000 victims and funding for production for 1,445 victims, regularly taken care of 12,339 victims and given away 633 wheelchairs. VAVA has also advised the victims to improve the family economy.

On May 11, 2021, VAVA donated 25 wheelchairs to victims of Agent Orange in Hanoi and Bac Giang province. Photo: Vietnam Times

Our activities, including fundraising for victims of Agent Orange, to commemorate the annual Vietnam Agent Orange day, and Tet for Agent Orange victims are being held effectively and becoming more known in society, awaking community’s sentiments for and responsibilty for the victims.

Many boarding facilities for victims of Agent Orange have been built and running effectively, providing care, health check and rehabilitation services for thousands of people. Our Social Protection Centers in Hanoi and other provinces such as Thai Binh and Gia Lai have delivered health checks and rehabilitation services to thousands of Agent Orange victims. In Da Nang, Dong Nai and Quang Ngai, over 400 victims have stayed in boarding facilities and received rehabilitation and job support. Hundreds have received health assistance as well.

Where do you find the resources to support victims of Agent Orange?

Mobilizing resources to take care of Agent Orange victims is one of VAVA’s priorities. Our member associations at all levels have been implementing many activities to call for support from organizations, businesses and individuals from Vietnam and abroad.

The association has been mobilizing support via the National Humanitarian Information Portal 1400 since 2011. This has proved to be an effective channel, contributing to the association’s resources.

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In addition, we build up our resources via projects by domestic and international organizations. We are running nearly 30 projects for victims of Agent Orange. We have both short-term and long-term projects that run from one to five years; each project values from VND 3 to 10 billion.

During the commemoration of 58 years of the Agent Orange/Dioxin disaster in Vietnam, businesses in Binh Duong province donated over VND 8 billion for Agent Orange victims. Photo: Vietnam Times

Other associations such as the Vietnam Young Entrepreneur Association and the Association of Medical Doctors have been lending us a helping hand as well.

External relations are highly important to our mission to mobilize support for victims of Agent Orange. Many international projects have been carrying out effectively, such as the projects by Gyeonggi province of Korea, the Kim Business group, the Hanoi International Women Club and the Medical and Scientific Aid for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. About 10% of the financial support for Agent Orange victims is a result of our efforts in fostering external relations.

We have achieved good results in social mobilization. In the first six months of 2021, we have garnered roughly VND 223 billion from domestic and international organizations and individuals.

Nguyen Van Khanh (middle) visiting victims of Agent Orange in Dong Nai province. Photo: Vietnam Times

Currently, what are the challenges in supporting victims of Agent Orange?

The prolonged pandemic has affected the economy of Vietnam and other countries. Also, during this period, social organizations are focusing on supporting people in disaster-stricken areas, poor people and other vulnerable groups affected by Covid.

As such, mobilizing social support for Agent Orange victims has become even more difficult. Also, many of our activities have not been carried out as planned due to social distancing.

What does VAVA plan to do to continue supporting Agent Orange victims?

We have set out some goals, such as developing five- and ten-year plans which have clear indicators for each year. Our action plans at all levels need to be specific, scientific, proactive, innovative, flexible and well-coordinated between different organizations and individuals. We will call for support from the authorities, the public, businesses, philanthropists and our Vietnam and international friends.

We also hope the Party, government, authorities and the public will help us in our activities so we can better assist victims of Agent Orange.