When foster mothers cry every day

Dernier ajout : 18 août 2009.

28-year-old Nguyen Thi Thuy Giang looks 10 years old.
She lies virtually motionless on a cradle at the Hoa Binh Village situated in Ho Chi Minh City’s Tu Du Hospital.
When a visitor enters her room, Giang tries to hide her face in the pillow, sputtering incomprehensible words.
“She is shy. She knows a visitor is calling on her and is happy with that,” said Nguyen Thi Minh Trang, head of the physical therapy department in the village.
But that is all Giang, who suffers from severe cerebral palsy, can do.
“We have to feed her. We have to clean her,” Trang said.
The staff provide such total care not only to Giang but to 60 or so other children suffering birth deformities suspected to be caused by Agent Orange.
All the children were born in areas heavily contaminated with Agent Orange, Trang said.
Many had been abandoned by parents too scared to continue raising them upon seeing their deformities at birth, Trang told Thanh Nien Daily during a visit to the village Sunday.
The parents have never come back to see their kids again, Trang said. Every effort to contact them has failed, she added.
Lying in the bed opposite Giang’s, the body of 14-year-old Khanh is almost the same as that of her peer, except for one thing – her head is abnormally big.
Khanh suffers from hydrocephalus, a condition in which the primary characteristic is excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain, according to Trang.
Khanh always looks like she is sleeping though at the time Thanh Nien Daily correspondent entered the room, she was awake.
The fate of another seven-year-old boy was even more moving, Trang said.
Tran Huynh Thuong Sinh has no eyes and both his legs are shrunk. He too was abandoned by his parents and brought to the village at birth.

 The tears of mothers

In a letter sent to US First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of the Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society Len Aldis said he wished the first lady could see the results that Agent Orange have had on children born many years after the spraying stopped.
“I know that as a mother you would weep – as I have seen many Vietnamese mothers weep - on seeing a young child with no arms, a child minus a leg, or one leg shorter than the other, a young teenager with a body twisted with spina bifida, a child with no eyes,” Aldis wrote.
But for Trang and her colleagues, who are called mother by the children, every day brings tears to their eyes.
“What we are most touched by is that despite their deformities, they remain unaffected,” she said.
“They are always delighted whenever visitors call on them. Seeing them like that, we cannot but cry.”

 Simple, but not simple

All the village children have dreams for their own lives, Trang said. But she feared even if the dreams were very simple, they will still be out of their reach.
“Several children told me they would like to work in the electricity sector, some others like painting. But how can they do this with these hands and legs ?
For us, the simplest and most practical thing to do is to teach them how to live with their condition. They cannot be discouraged from dreaming. But their dreams should not be something far from reality.”
Some children with less deformities and more abilities have undergone vocational training and started to make money themselves, she said.
Established in 1990 with initial sponsorship from Germany’s Peace Village, Hoa Binh Village is home to 60 victims suspected of suffering Agent Orange-related congenital birth defects.

 Brutal legacy

Agent Orange, named after the color of the stripe on the barrels in which the defoliant sprayed by American forces during the Vietnam War was stored, contained tetrachlorodibenzop dioxin (known as TCDD), one of the most poisonous chemicals ever made by man.
Agent Orange has caused reproductive problems, birth defects, cancer and other diseases in affected people on both sides of the war.
Between 1961 and 1971, the US Army sprayed some 80 million liters of the defoliant, containing 366 kilograms of the highly toxic dioxin, over 30,000 square miles of southern Vietnam.
By the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, nearly 4.8 million Vietnamese people had been exposed to Agent Orange, causing 400,000 deaths.
Millions more have, and continue to suffer devastating long-term health effects, including cancer and genetic defects.

Reported by An Dien, 10 aoùût 2009