This past year, we held bi-coastal "Awareness Screenings" centered around the idea of using our documentary to bring light to larger issues in Vietnam and making a progressive change. These events included a screening of Chau, beyond the lines, a Q&A with director Courtney Marsh, and Dr. Charles Bailey (Lead Advisor of Agent Orange in Vietnam), followed by a reception where audience members could engage each other and open a discussion about the current situation in Vietnam. During the reception, we gave people an opportunity to take action by signing individual letters, encouraging Congress to continue monetary aid to help clean up Agent Orange 'hotspots' in Vietnam along with allocating monetary aid to victims of the chemical. With the onset of 2016, we made some progress and I am happy to share the document below along with an explanation beneath.
FISCAL YEAR 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Act Final Language
December 16, 2015 (1:05am)
(1) DIOXIN REMEDIATION
Funds appropriated by this Act under the heading ‘‘Economic Support Fund’’ shall be made available for remediation of dioxin contaminated sites in Vietnam and may be made available for assistance for the Government of Vietnam, including the military, for such purposes.
(2) HEALTH AND DISABILITY PROGRAMS
Funds appropriated by this Act under the heading ‘‘Development Assistance’’ shall be made available for health and disability programs in areas sprayed with Agent Orange and otherwise contaminated with dioxin, to assist individuals with severe upper or lower body mobility impairment and/or cognitive or developmental disabilities.
To sum up:
$30 million has been appropriated under (1); it’s partly to finish the clean up at the Da Nang Airbase and partly a down payment on the next hot spot to clean up: the Bien Hoa Airbase. The good news here is that this Appropriations Act language signals the U.S. Government will finish cleaning the Da Nang Airbase (the second biggest hotspot in Vietnam) and move ahead on the clean up of the largest of the “big three” hotspots, Bien Hoa.
$7 million has been appropriated under (2). Although it isn't the amount that will solve all the necessary issues in Vietnam, Congress only appropriates funds they judge can be used or committed within the fiscal year. For a variety of “pipeline” issues, it’s hard for USAID to spend larger sums despite the evident need. A contradiction? Yes. Does this need to change? Yes. The biggest news here though is the inclusion of language in the law, which focuses assistance on the sprayed areas and within those areas, those with severe disabilities of the types linked to dioxin exposure of a parent or grandparent or great grandparent. This means U.S. Government funds will reach the majority of the Agent Orange victims “regardless of cause.”
We still need to encourage Congress to continue appropriating money for this upcoming fiscal year, so please, if you haven't already, download 3 letters on our "WRITE TO CONGRESS" Tab and send your letter in to your 2 Senators and local Representative.