VVAF conducts a multitude of humanitarian projects throughout Vietnam. These projects focus on two specific areas: mine action and rehabilitation services. These projects cover a diverse array of activities, including capacity building for demining, Agent Orange and dioxin mitigation, and vocational training activities.
VVAF’s mine action and rehabilitation projects are conducted through two overarching projects. One, VVAF’s DRIVE project, works to correct the impacts of Agent Orange and dioxin in Vietnam. From 1962 through 1971, an estimated 72 million liters of herbicide containing dioxin, commonly called Agent Orange, were sprayed over Vietnam in areas south of the former demilitarized zone along the 17th parallel.
Although statistics vary tremendously based on the basis of definition used, a survey in 2006 conducted by the Vietnamese General Statistics Office (GSO) showed that around 13.5% of the population of Vietnam, or about 11 million people, have disabilities. Exposure to dioxin might result in serious health effects including blindness, poliomyelitis, deafness, brain diseases and mental disorders, blood diseases, and congenital birth defects.
The DRIVE project, at the end of its first phase, selected six provinces in which dioxin had heartily affected the citizenry. During Phase I, the project worked in 11 total provinces, selected for large numbers of war legacy veterans residing in the area, as well as significant residual concentrations of chemical contaminants identified by the Hatfield studies. The six provinces selected for Phase II were selected due to the strong commitment, continued support and leadership provided by the provincial authorities during the implementation of Phase I, which began in 2006, of DRIVE. The six provinces were categorized into two tiers of priority.
Tier one areas, in Central Vietnam, were chosen because of their proximity to the on-going contaminated hotspots. This group of provinces received higher priority, among which Da Nang was listed No 1 priority in terms of resources.
Tier Two areas, in northern Vietnam included Ninh Binh, Nam Dinh, and Thai Binh. These provinces were chosen due to their large number of people with disabilities. These are provinces with high concentrations of “legacy veterans,” former soldiers who were exposed to dioxin during military service and returned to their places of origin after the war.
Phase II was initiated with the goal to increase living standards and promote inclusion of people with disabilities, residents of dioxin hot spots areas and war legacy victims and contribute to Vietnam’s development through a cross-sectoral approach (health care, vocational training, and social inclusion). This phase has included extensive work in rehabilitation and rehabilitative training, to better serve the population of persons with disabilities in Vietnam.
Part of Phase II has included bringing Vietnamese-American students to Vietnam to work with those who have been disable by Agent Orange and dioxin. The students selected are from top universities in the US, with excellent academic records and a history of community service. These students work in a fellowship with Vietnamese organizations for six weeks providing services to the diabled in Vietnam. Most recently, a group of students was brought to Vietnam in August 2011.