U.S. Officials Engage on Issues Related to Agent Orange
Hanoi, June 5, 2009
In both Danang and Washington, D.C., U.S. Government officials engaged with counterparts, U.S. Congressional representatives and others to discuss ongoing efforts by the United States, Vietnam and multilateral partners to address issues related to Agent Orange.
U.S. officials joined Vietnamese counterparts this week to visit several different environmental health and remediation projects in Danang. The officials visited a rehabilitation clinic at Binh Dan Hospital and the newly completed Danang Orthopedics and Rehabilitation Hospital where U.S.-sponsored programs are referring people with disabilities for corrective surgery.
The group also toured areas around Danang airport, including a site at which the Ford Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. State Department first began collaborating with the Government of Vietnam on containment efforts in 2007. At the site, officials from EPA, together with their partners from the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Defense, are piloting bioremediation technology to determine if this process can reduce dioxin concentrations in the soil to environmentally safe limits. These tests are expected to help guide future remediation efforts.
In Washington this week, Deputy Assistant Secretary for South East Asian Affairs and U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN Scot Marciel spoke at the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange-Dioxin’s Annual Meeting, and testified at a Congressional hearing on U.S.-Vietnam cooperation on issues related to Agent Orange. In his testimony before the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Marciel noted the continued strengthening of ties between the United States and Vietnam and how they are having a positive impact on cooperation across a broad spectrum of areas. He also described efforts in both health and environmental remediation activities. “Agent Orange has long been a sensitive issue for both countries, and we have differed over the lasting impact of the defoliant on Vietnam,” said Ambassador Marciel. “I am pleased to say that we are now engaged in practical, constructive cooperation.”
U.S. Congress allocated an additional $3 million for continued assistance for environmental remediation and related health activities. This funding follows an initial $3 million provided in 2007 for dioxin mitigation and health projects in Vietnam, for a combined total of $6 million. From 2001 to 2007, the United States spent over $2.5 million to build Vietnamese capacity to study the effects of Agent Orange/dioxin.
Of the $6 million total, about one-third is programmed for health related activities, which are already under way. The remaining amount is dedicated to environmental remediation efforts, which the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is developing in close collaboration with the Government of Vietnam and will complement the efforts of other donors.
As part of its broader aid program, the United States has had a long history of providing help to Vietnamese with disabilities without regard to the cause of their disability. Since 1989, the American people have contributed more than $46 million to support Vietnamese with disabilities.