Sunday, July 22, 2012

Overcoming Dioxin’s Devastating Effects

Phi and Phu (foreground) are brothers who have managed to transcend their disabilities. They’re pictured with their mother, Hoang Thi Tuyet, and other family members.
By Peter Slavin
Sometimes the simplest changes make a huge difference for Vietnamese people with physical challenges caused by dioxin exposure.

Trinh Thi Tam paid a high price for moving supplies along the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Her face is pockmarked with chloracne from dioxin exposure, and her son Luc has been an invalid his entire life. A poor woman, Tam has only a small vegetable plot. The Red Cross wanted to give her a couple of pigs to raise and sell.

American Susan Hammond, who used to live in Vietnam and founded the nonprofit War Legacies Project, remembers Tam’s response: “You’re crazy. I have to walk a mile every day to get water. I do it at night because I have to leave my son alone, and I worry about him. … If I have pigs, I’m going to have to walk even more to get water for them. I can’t do it. What I need is a well.”

With funding from the War Legacies Project, Vietnam’s Red Cross had a well dug 65 feet deep and bought a pump. A neighbor offered to let Tam tap into his electricity if she shared the water. Tam and several neighbors now do so.

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