DA NANG, Vietnam, April 22 (UPI) -- Groups advocating for people affected by the U.S. military's spraying of Agent Orange during the Vietnam war met in Da Nang this week to work on an action plan.
Representatives of the Ford Foundation, UNICEF, local and national government departments and victims' groups discussed possible solutions Tuesday to resolve health problems among the Vietnamese people since the defoliant, which contained the chemical dioxin, was used in the Southeast Asian country in the 1960s, the Voice of Vietnam reported.
Vietnamese officials described clean-up efforts at so-called hot spots found at Da Nang and Bien Hoa airports.
The newspaper Saigon Giai Phong said this week's meeting was a prelude to another meeting to be held with the U.S. government in Washington in June.
The Ford Foundation's Charles Bailey estimated about 10 percent of forests and trees in Vietnam's central and southern regions were destroyed by U.S. forces using Agent Orange and other defoliants, the Voice of Vietnam said.
There are about 3 million victims in Vietnam, a majority of whom are children of soldiers and civilians who were in areas sprayed with Agent Orange during the war, and those living in those regions afterward.
A victims association sued 37 U.S. chemical firms who supplied the defoliant in 2003 but a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was recently rejected, the newspaper said.
The foundation's initiative has used $11.2 million of $17 million raised from the Vietnamese government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to help victims, the Saigon newspaper reported.
A Vietnamese Defense Ministry-run news Web site reported Bailey noted Agent Orange remains a sensitive and debatable issue, and could be the final barrier to complete normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam.
"We hope that the new administration of President Obama will draw more attention from the U.S. public on the dioxin issue," said Mary Dolan Hogrefe, who was among those attending the meeting.
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