VFA’s Rehabilitation Program
Since 1994 VFA has been working in partnership with the Ministry of Health, first at two major hospitals in Hanoi - the National Hospital of Pediatrics and Bach Mai Hospital - and more recently in provincial hospitals in five provinces - Ha Giang, Nam Dinh, Thai Binh, Ha Nam, and How Binh - providing support for orthotic rehabilitation and skills training to provide orthotic devices and other solutions for those whose mobility is impaired. These include victims of the wars, other trauma, disease, and congenital defects. Currently 7% of Vietnam’s population is considered disabled - the largest group suffering from mobility problems, and 87% of these people live in rural areas.
Through June 2006 the rehabilitation program has produced and distributed assistive devices to 8,770 adults and children with the total of 14, 950 orthotic devices, 185 prosthesis and 1,063 wheelchairs.
VFA’s Self Help Program
VFA is committed to working with the Ministry of Health to find sustainable solutions for rehabilitation and orthotic service delivery and those which allow people with disabilities to participate as equals in society. In 2002, MoH and VFA started support for persons treated in the hospitals to join together in self-help grounds where they could share their experiences with others and through this process develop increased opportunities for employment and education.
People who have been treated through MoH/VFA rehabilitation clinics have been supported to join with other people with disabilities and set up VFA supported self-help organizations in Hanoi and five provinces where we work in physical rehabilitation, as well as the two provinces where we work in physical rehabilitation, as well as the two provinces - Danang and Khanh Hoa - in which we are implementing our Mental Health Program. Our plans for the future include such activities for those disabled as the result of exposure to chemicals and herbicides during and since the war.
VFA’s Mental Health Program
In the global burden of disease study undertaken in 1990 by the World Health Organization, five of the leading causes of disability around the world were mental health problems. Mental health problems are not isolated to the developed world and are a major impediment to life in all areas of the globe.
In Vietnam, it seems that the majority of mental health problems remain unidentified and therefore untreated. International experience shows that effective early intervention and treatment for people with mental health problems is a contributing factor to reducing the burden experienced by individuals, family members and the community.
VFA started its new program on Mental Health, intending to introduce a process that will quantify the currently unknown impact of mental health problems in Vietnam. Commencing in January 2006, with a pilot project in two provinces, Khanh How and Danang, VFA and our project partners will develop a survey tool that will be used to collect information about the number of people who are affected by mental health problems, individuals and their families, as well as community services.
In addition, community health promotion and capacity building peer group programs will be established to provide a supportive environment for individuals and their families to reduce the social stigma of mental health problems.
VFA’s DRIVE Program
Over 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides were sprayed by the United States forces on southern and central Vietnam between 1961 and 1971. As with American veterans, the several million Vietnamese who were sprayed directly or otherwise came in contact with these herbicides continue to carry the dioxin within their bodies, often with sever consequences for their health and the health of their offspring. In addition, it continues to pose a threat to hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese living in and around former US military airbases where the spray planes were based and serviced.
With the commencement in July 2006 of the Dioxin Resolution in Vietnam (DRIVE) program, the newest addition to our portfolio of activities, VFA seeks to ensure that residents of hotspot areas - those areas which are still contaminated to this day - and individuals exposed to the chemicals during the war, receive the medical and social services and information that they need to protect their health, maintain an acceptable standard of quality of life, and contribute to overall growth and development in Vietnam.
We will be working in 11 provinces where dioxin victims are concentrated (Thai Binh, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue, Quang Nam, Da Nang, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Dong Nai, and Can Tho). Importantly, we will be joined in this effort by former soldiers from nearly all of the forces who took part in the war, as well as many governmental institutions and non-governmental organizations.
This VFA program would compromise three major components: direct support to the disabled, including dioxin contamination victims, counseling and support to help reintegrate disabled individuals into mainstream society, and advocacy to create greater awareness of the problem and support for dioxin victims and other disabled.
VFA will also continue its efforts to identify and mitigate existing dioxin contamination locations, and will closely coordinate those efforts with the activities proposed in this initiative and our other programs.
VFA’s School Construction Program
VFA is also currently engaged in the construction of a new primary school complex in the commune of Hoi Ninh Binh province. When completed, the facility will feature 12 modern and furnished classrooms with a capacity of 350 students, a library, administrative offices, and a multi-function room to be used for school and village functions.
VFA’s iMMAP Program
More than 30 years after the war, Vietnam is still filled with hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs, landmines, ammunition and unexploded ordnances scattering throughout 64 provinces of the country and contaminating every category of topography: forests, mountains, pastures, cultivated land, lakes, rivers, streams and coastal settings. It is a scourge which has caused over 30,000 deaths and 64,000 injuries since 1975 and which diminishes the productivity of significant parts of its land and inhibits socio-economic development activities. VFA’s Information Management and Mine Action Programs (iMMAP) works to eliminate the scourge of landmines.
Since 2001, VFA’s Information Management and Mine Action Programs 9iMMAP) has worked with the Ministry of Defense to coordinate with the Technology Centre for Bomb & Mine Disposal (BOMICEN), Engineering Command to design and implement a Vietnam Unexploded Ordnance/Landmine Impact Assessment and Rapid Technical Response Project. The project’s goal is to define the nature and scope of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and landmine contaminated areas in Vietnam and its adverse social and economic consequences through the execution of a UXO/landmine survey and impact assessment down to commune level. The project also addresses, through a rapid response capacity, priority community UXO and landmine clearance needs as identified during the survey process. During the recently completed Phase I of this project, 421 hectares of land were cleared in three provinces - Quang Tri, Quang Binh, and Ha Tinh, with 6,250 items of unexploded ordinance removed; in Phase II, which is about to commence, the remaining portions of these three provinces will be surveyed and cleared, as well as two additional provinces - Thua Thien hue and Nghe An.
This partnership between the Ministry of Defense and VFA is the first such collaboration between the Ministry and a non-governmental organization and is also widely regarded as an important endeavor supporting reconciliation between Vietnam and the United States.