In 2000, I photographed Le Thi Hoa (left, 14) and her sister Le Thi Nhon (27) – both victims of the use of chemical warfare (Agent Orange) during the Vietnam War. Nowadays, Hoa runs the “Tiny Flower’s Shop & Café.” See this very moving short documentary, assigned by Dutch NGO MCNV (Medisch Comité Nederland-Vietnam).
Their father Le Huu Dong (57) was a soldier in the South-Vietnamese army (1963-75) and was in close contact with Agent Orange. A third child, with the same symptoms, died. In 2000, Dong told me: “Nhon and Hoa have the same problem. People call them monsters, but their brains are normal, they can understand, speak, walk. Hoa is studying at home, she is very intelligent.”
Between 1961 and 1971, US troops sprayed 72 million litres of herbicides over ± 10% of the surface of South Vietnam – 51 million of this was Agent Orange, containing a total of 170 kilos of 2,3,7,8-T4CDD (dioxin).
Laboratory tests led to the conclusion that dioxin can lead to birth defects and genetic damage in animals. Vietnamese and other researchers found higher rates of congenitally malformed babies among people who have been sprayed with this defoliant.
For more of my photos on the consequences of the use of Agent Orange, click here.