Agent Orange blamed for child defects
April 13, 1996
Web posted at: 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT)
HANOI, Vietnam (CNN) -- Thoa, 13, never experienced the horrors of the Vietnam War, but like thousands of other children, she lives with its effects every day.
Since the country was unified in 1975, veterans have complained of various illnesses linked to defoliants like Agent Orange used during the war. But now, in ever growing numbers, it is the children of these veterans who are suffering, according to a new U.S. report linking Agent Orange to birth defects.
"My hands hurt. The skin falls off when it's touched," says Thoa, whose face is marked with dark brown spots.
Thoa recently attended the opening of a computer school at Hanoi's Peace Village, a center near Hanoi for children Vietnam has identified as Agent Orange victims.
During the war, the United States is believed to have dumped more than 19 million tons of defoliants over vast areas of south Vietnam. The plan was to deny jungle cover to guerrillas and infiltrators. But, many observers agree that the defoliants never really helped the war effort.
While Thoa's scars are visible, many children are suffering from mental retardation. The doctors who run the center say the evidence speaks for itself.
"It's a humanitarian matter. We are trying to help more than 200,000 to 300,000 children who are chemical war victims," says scientist Hoang Dinh Cau.
But these children may have to wait for help. The Vietnamese government says it has neither the money nor the technology to pay for the medical research needed.
So now, more than two decades after the end of the war, another battle is being fought -- by the children of war.
From International Correspondent David Compton
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