US raises $30 mln for dioxin cleanup in Vietnam

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Some US$30 million have been mobilized from the US government and donors to assist Vietnam in cleaning up sites still contaminated by Dioxin, the Vietnam News Agency reported on Monday.

The funding will also be used to revive the ecosystem and to treat Vietnamese who are believed linked to exposure to Agent Orange, the agency said.

The sum, including a pledge of $15 million from the US government, was announced at a discussion held at Wake Forest University in North Carolina on February 18.

That is the first dollars of the $300 million, decade-long aid under the Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin.

One of the speakers at the discussion, Charles Bailey, Director of the Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin for the Ford Foundation said, "Agent Orange's toxic legacy continues in 28 'hot spots' where the level of Dioxin remains dangerously high."

Dealing with this issue is just part of the "unfinished business" left over from the Vietnam War, said Bailey.

He said that helping Vietnam to deal with the aftermath of Agent Orange "is a humanitarian issue, and we can do something about it".

The US army dumped more than 7.5 million liters of the defoliant, on about a quarter of former South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971.

Because of slipshod production methods, much of the defoliant was heavily contaminated by a persistant organic pollutant known as Dioxin. The chemical has since been linked to over twenty chronic diseases.

The Vietnam Red Cross estimates up to 3 million Vietnamese children and adults have suffered health problems related to Agent Orange exposure.

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