Tran Anh Kiet’s feet, hands and limbs are twisted and deformed. He is 21 years old, but trapped inside a body that appears to belong to a 15 year old with a mental age of around six. He has to be spoon-fed and writhes often in evident frustration. All his attempts at speech are confined to plaintive and pitiful grunts.
In Kiet’s small community in Cu Chi district, about 45 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh city, south Vietnam, his story is all too common – indeed the villagers have a name for young people like him: Agent Orange babies.
Some 79 million liters of Agent Orange herbicides were dropped on the jungles of Vietnam from 1961-1971 in an attempt to defoliate the rainforest and deny any cover for the VietCong guerilla forces resisting the United States occupation of Vietnam.
Today in Vietnam there are 150,000 other children like Kiet, whose parents allege their birth defects are the result of exposure to Agent Orange during the war, or the consumption of dioxin-contaminated food and water since 1975.