London surgeons help 'children of Agent Orange' It’s an American war that ended nearly 40 years ago. But in Vietnam, they claim the casualties keep coming. Birth defects plague the country. They call them the children of Agent Orange.
America sprayed the defoliant chemical over vast areas to create hunger, destroy crops, and the jungle their communist enemy used for cover.
An old war that’s now drawing new recruits in SW-10. “We have a big project in Da Nang in Central Vietnam which has got the highest incidents of congenital deformity in the world. And that’s thought to be as a result of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.”
It’s Niall Kirkpatrick’s last NHS operation at Chelsea in Westminster before joining 9 other London plastic surgeons on an unpaid mission to Vietnam.
They land at Da Nang airport where America once loaded Agent Orange onto aircraft. Scientists found soil contamination here 350 times above safety levels. “He can’t speak properly. He can’t eat properly. And he can’t see.”
In the early 70’s, America’s own Agriculture Department reported that dioxin, used in Agent Orange, produced a significant potential to increase birth defects. But by then, they had been spraying it across Vietnam for years.
It’s day one for the surgeons. Word is out: stories abound about what the doctors from London achieved last year. The Facing the World Team had two weeks to help normalize these little faces. Some too disfigured to show.
“Can you do a high five?”
“You see them turn up on the back of a motorbike coming from miles and miles and miles and they’ll have heard of a hope - just that tiny flicker that maybe this was somebody that can help our child. So they will take every penny or dong that they got to get there. And they will sit and wait.”
“We’ve met little children on the doorstep of the A&E department. They got there, they heard we were there and waited. It’s heartbreaking but also then the system kind of starts to work.”
The Vietnamese Red Cross claims 150,000 child birth defects are linked to dioxin in Agent Orange. America says that’s exaggerated and lacks proper science.
They refuse compensation and yet paid out millions to American veterans affected while handling Agent Orange.
“If we had the same amount of congenital deformity in the U.K. then it would simply bankrupt our U.K. NHS. Vietnam is going to struggle with this problem for a number of years because the dioxin is geno-toxic and therefore once it enters a population’s gene pool then it is passed on through the generations and it takes a long time before that stops.
Amid the bustle, Trang was treated last year and returns for a check-up. “And tell me, have you had any problems at all with the nose or the eye or the face or eating?”
It’s been an amazing transformation.Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk