The inheritance from the vietnam war

Tobias Nicolai


Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

During the Vietnam War US forces sprayed the forests of southern Vietnam with the herbicide called Agent Orange. But it did more than get rid of the leaves. In over 40 years the Vietnamese people has experienced collateral damage from the American warfare.

In 2002 the Vietnamese Red Cross estimated that Agent Orange has affected 1 million peoples health. Of those on million 100.000 are children.

The many kids that are being born with handicaps, birth defects of all kinds and severe intellectual disabilities are so-called second and third generation victims. The poison in Agent Orange is being passed down through generations. It is extremely hard to prove that it Agent Orange is the cause of a child’s suffering. To be sure the background of the person in question has to be examined carefully. Both the regional affiliation and family line three generations back has to be established.

Many of the children who are suspected victims of the poisonous Agent Orange has been abandoned by their parents at orphanages and hospitals as these in Ho Chi Minh City. This aspect makes it an almost impossible detective assignment to establish if Agent Orange is to blame for the children’s suffering.

While the American government has recognized that many Vietnam veterans and their descendants has been affected by Agent Orange, Vietnamese organisations has been fighting for decades to get USA and the chemical companies to recognize the damages that Agent Orange is still causing to this date.

No one can say for sure how long Agent Orange will keep affecting future generations in Vietnam.

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  • At Tu Du hospital there is a room where a fraction of all the children with birth defects are kept. This child was born in 1981 by Nguyen Thi Thoi. They are all suspected victims of Agent Orange. Tu Du Hospital, HCMC.

  • The abandoned children at the orphanage are named after the monks who run it. 2-year old Chân Ngoc Xuân has downs syndrome. She crawls around on her stomach in the hallways for the most. Ky Quang II Pagoda, HCMC.

  • Ly Minh Son is only 16 years old. But his disease, Crouzon syndrome, makes him look way older. He has a broken phone without batteries to play with. The phone rarely leaves his hand. Tu Du Hospital, HCMC.

  • The Vietnamese also follow the lunar calendar. When there is a full moon it is celebrated Vietnamese style with traditional dragon shows. A local school had brought gifts for all the children on the ward. Tu Du Hospital, HCMC.

  • Minh Anh is also called 'Ca'. Which means fish. The other kids made that name up because of his severe skin condition. He is often tied to his bed because he both sleepwalks and itches his skin. Tu Du Hospital, HCMC.

  • Pham Thanh Hong Duc has been bedridden since he was born 19 years ago. Often he lies in agonizing pain. Pham was left at the hospital but they know his parents come from district 8 in Ho Chi Minh City. Tu Du Hospital, HCMC.

  • Many of the children have been abandoned outside hospitals and orphanages at night. Often the parents are poor, but it is also connected to shame when a handicapped child is born. Tu Du Hospital, HCMC.

  • 1-year old Ho Chan Dieu Hien spends the most of his days staring into the ceiling. He can’t move his giant head by himself. Children with the disease hydrocephalus die within 8 years. Ky Quang II Pagoda, HCMC.

  • Nguyen Hong Loi is 28 and one of the oldest on the ward. It is his job to drive the kids to school on his motorbike. First trip is at 6am. Loi is missing both legs and one arm. Tu Du Hospital, HCMC.

  • Tran Huynh Thuong Sinh has webbed hands and feet. The genital area is so malformed that the staff does not know whether Sinh a boy or girl. Sinh spend the most of the day under her cot crying, but no tears appear. Tu Du Hospital, HCMC.

  • Room 4 is for boys only. The group of boys that go to schools around the city live in this room. Room 4 is a chaotic place, but at 10pm everyone sleeps. Hoa and Loi. Tu Du Hospital, HCMC.

  • 19-year-old Luong Thi Ngoc Anh has traits from both genders, because of that the staff writes Anh's gender in a parenthesis. Anh is blind on on eye, deaf one ear and can't speak. She stills go to school. Tu Du Hospital, HCMC.

  • Often the staffs has to tie Nhu to a chair, otherwise she will crawl out of the windows. Long, on the other hand, gets around by jumping on a plastic chair a technique that has taken years to develop. Tu Du Hospital, HCMC.