With Vietnam soon to be classified as a ‘middle-income country’, there is discussion in the development community about whether organisations, volunteers and aid are still needed here. In my case, working in healthcare (disability), I would argue that effective medical and education systems/methods/techniques can only develop with investigation, analysis and research. Which can only happen when people have the opportunity, time and money. Which naturally follow behind the initial economic and infrastructure development. So... whilst there ARE more decent roads, and schools and hospitals being built here, the skills and knowledge of the people working in them are significantly behind those in the more developed world. (Obviously I’m talking about 'Western' not 'Eastern' medicine, which I think is valuable and they certainly know more about than we do!)
My placement has been set up as part of project funded by an American Veterans organisation to address the alleged ongoing effects of the use of the herbicide Agent Orange (amongst others) during the American/Vietnam war. Due to a lack of concrete data I can’t comment on whether or not these herbicides (and in particular the dioxins which contaminated them) have led to a prevalence of child disability in this area compared to elsewhere in Vietnam, or the world. But this province was very heavily sprayed, and there are a lot of children with complex disabilities here. (Protracted and messy moral and legal battles continue between Vietnam and American chemical companies. There is plenty of information online, including an interesting US congress report at http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL34761.pdf)
I’ll explain more about my particular job in the next blog.
Sorry, these are a bit dry... but it’s not all noodles, beaches and karaoke...