The largest chemical warfare campaign in the history of the world ended in 1975, but its damaging effects on human health continue to this day. Between 2.1 to 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to the chemical known as Agent Orange Dioxin as well as other herbicides during the Vietnam War, suffering the vicious effects of the toxic defoliants for more than 40 years. This continues to affect second and third generations with cancer, blood disorders, serious birth defects or infant fatality, Downs’s syndrome, and other handicaps.
Hands-On Saigon (HOS) began assisting victims of Agent Orange in 2000 with humanitarian assistance. HOS reaches out to victims and their families in poor rural areas that find it difficult to make a living, providing encouragement and sustainable income solutions. Local and overseas donors have made it possible to donate healthy livestock to new families every year. The majority being poor subsistence farmers—often with multiple handicapped children in one family—these donations provide a reliable way to generate income and better care for the disabled victims. A young heifer takes time to mature but can improve the livelihood of a family by providing labor and offspring, as well as milk.
This past year, Hands-On Saigon was able to assist nine families with Agent Orange victims. Eight received heifers, and a toilet and washroom was built for another family that has three severely handicapped adults. In recent years total of 77 poor families have been provided with 35 heifers, 11 water buffaloes and 60 piglets through this program. In some cases a small cash gift was also given for feed, tools, and shelters for the livestock. HOS conducts periodic monitoring and evaluation visits to the beneficiary families, and is encouraged by the tremendous ongoing impact the livestock program has had in alleviating hardship.