Sunday, November 4, 2012

DA NANG: Perception gap over Agent Orange is déjà vu after Fukushima
Today, Da Nang, a central Vietnamese port city of 890,000 people, is famed for its graceful coastline and is a popular destination for huge crowds of tourists.
During the Vietnam War, however, the city hosted the largest base used by the U.S. Air Force, where huge amounts of the Agent Orange chemical defoliant were manufactured and stored. Highly toxic dioxin, the main ingredient in Agent Orange, continues to be detected in high concentrations in the surrounding soil.
A welfare center for Agent Orange survivors is located in a rural, mountainous area about a 45-minute drive from downtown Da Nang. It educates children with inborn auditory, mental and other disabilities in reading and writing and offers them simple forms of rehabilitation.
Some children take the bus, driven by center staff, for more than an hour to attend the center because no regular school is willing to accept them. The legacy of the war is vivid, and the children are bearing the burden.
The children greeted me with slightly shyish smiles when I visited the center. Some of them made funny gestures in posing for the camera, whereas others, interested in a smartphone, tried to sweep their fingers across the screen.

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