Jefferson Seth McIntyre

Jefferson Seth McIntyre (Association for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities – AEPD in Vietnam): Seth holds a BA from the College of Santa Fe. Prior to his fellowship, he served in the Peace Corps in Guyana. Seth also worked with AmeriCorps in New Orleans where he provided free legal aid for indigent clients. His interest in advocacy began on a Navajo reservation where he wrote an award-winning expose on the impact of uranium mining on the reservation. Seth was studying for an MA at Brandeis University when he was deployed to Vietnam. After his fellowship, Seth wrote: “(This has been) one of the most profound professional and personal experiences I have ever had. AEPD is an organization of exceptional merit, skills, and commitment, and meeting with Agent Orange survivors in the field changed my perspective on many things – (including) the American War.” smcintyre@advocacynet.org



An Intercontinental Partnership to Address Agent Orange

30 Jun

It is only my first week in Vietnam (and my second day in Dong Hoi City where I now reside), and I am already feeling at home with the kindness and generosity  of AEPD. But first, a little more about the organizations I work.

The Advocacy Project, which hosts my blog and Flickr, is an NGO, based out of Washington D.C., that aids marginalized communities to tell their stories, claim their rights, and produce social change. Through The Advocacy Project, I have been placed with the Association for the Empowerment of People with Disabilities (AEPD) in Dong Hoi City, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. Under The Advocacy Project, I am responsible for a number of services directly linked to increasing the online presence of AEPD, their visibility to local and international media, producing website content through videography and photography, and blogging through The Advocacy Project’s online network of past and present fellows.

In addition, I am also working with AEPD and their organizational goals. AEPD oversees the empowerment of Vietnamese living with disabilities along eight key areas: 1) access to health care, 2) social inclusion and empowerment, 3) economic support, 4) community based rehabilitation, 5) livelihood opportunities, 6) climate change workshops, 7) education and information, and 8) advocacy. The World Health Organization estimates as much as 15% of the Vietnamese population is currently living with a disability. While not all of these disabilities can be linked to past conflicts in the country, many members of the disabled population in Vietnam have conditions that are due to events from the American War in Vietnam.

Thus, two areas of central focus for AEPD are the disabilities arising from the large number of unexploded ordinances leftover from the wars and medical afflictions linked to the chemical defoliant, Agent Orange. Increased attention by international donors has led AEPD to expand its outreach in Central Vietnam to include a wider range of coverage for victims of dioxin poisoning, and increasing awareness about the large number of existing unexploded ordinances scattered throughout the country.

Because dioxin poisoning can be very difficult to identify, especially in parts of the world where medical resources are limited or too expensive, AEPD has been working hard to gather on-the-ground data to support and augment the existing literature. The latest initiative is to conduct community surveys that will help to determine the likelihood of dioxin exposure along a list of known indicators. In order to do this, the organization has chosen to design a series of surveys to be disseminated to the public at large. The Advocacy Project is providing support on the donor end as well as consulting on the technical aspects of the project.

Despite all of this, the survey has been procedurally very complicated. The lack of “good evidence” and epidemiological studies, along with a series of legal battles in the 80s, 90s, following court cases from American Veterans who believe their disabilities and the disabilities of their children were caused by their contact with Agent Orange, has placed Agent Orange in a murky, indeterminate place. American Veterans “won” a case in the 90s, which expanded VA services for veterans of the American War in Vietnam, but failed to establish any sense of clear liability, for the chemical’s manufacturers (Dow Chemical, Monsanto, and others) and their part in rectifying the ecological and human consequences of its use.

In other words, conducting a survey on Agent Orange is like proving climate change: the backlash is fierce, the debates uneven, and the politics rarely demonstrative of the truth. Despite a mountain of studies, films, books, personal anecdotes, and the living proof of the survivors themselves—the black and white of Agent Orange is still gray. This survey is not out to prove the causal relationship between birth defects and Agent Orange, and it is far from establishing any new ground on the legal responsibility of the parties involved. Rather, this survey is doing what civil society and NGOs do best: identify an issue and tackle it with or without the politics.

I spent the last few weeks in Washington D.C. working with The Advocacy Project to develop a survey which would use the Veterans Administration and the Government of Vietnam’s own criteria for determining a victim of Agent Orange. This amounts to a list of 20 or so conditions that, when coupled with time served in known Agent Orange hot spots, their designation is a survivor of Agent is cleared. But this procedure is on a much smaller scale in Vietnam, largely due to a lack of resources.

With AEPD, I am developing a survey to determine the likelihood of dioxin exposure, as well as designing a database to catalog new and existing data. This survey will be implemented in one district in the province of Quang Binh. These surveys will be co-developed with AEPD and will be collected through structured and semi-structured interviews with AEPD’s clients, following an extensive documentation review of relevant historical, medical, and cultural data.

Once the data is collected, a report will be made identifying the needs of Agent Orange survivors in the area and, with donor help, there will be a follow-up project to carry individual packages of support to those survivors.

It’s an ambition project, but one with an exceptional partnership and great potential.
[content-builder]{“id”:1,”version”:”1.0.4″,”nextId”:3,”block”:”root”,”layout”:”12″,”childs”:[{“id”:”2″,”block”:”rte”,”content”:”It is only my first week in Vietnam (and my second day in Dong Hoi City where I now reside), and I am already feeling at home with the kindness and generosity  of AEPD. But first, a little more about the organizations I work.

The Advocacy Project<\/a>, which hosts my blog<\/a> and Flickr<\/a>, is an NGO, based out of Washington D.C., that aids marginalized communities to tell their stories, claim their rights, and produce social change. Through The Advocacy Project, I have been placed with the Association for the Empowerment of People with Disabilities (AEPD)<\/a> in Dong Hoi City, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. Under The Advocacy Project, I am responsible for a number of services directly linked to increasing the online presence of AEPD, their visibility to local and international media, producing website content through videography and photography, and blogging through The Advocacy Project\u2019s online network of past and present fellows.

In addition, I am also working with AEPD and their organizational goals. AEPD oversees the empowerment of Vietnamese living with disabilities along eight key areas: 1) access to health care, 2) social inclusion and empowerment, 3) economic support, 4) community based rehabilitation, 5) livelihood opportunities, 6) climate change workshops, 7) education and information, and 8) advocacy. The World Health Organization estimates as much as 15% of the Vietnamese population is currently living with a disability. While not all of these disabilities can be linked to past conflicts in the country, many members of the disabled population in Vietnam have conditions that are due to events from the American War in Vietnam.

Thus, two areas of central focus for AEPD are the disabilities arising from the large number of unexploded ordinances leftover from the wars and medical afflictions linked to the chemical defoliant, Agent Orange. Increased attention by international donors has led AEPD to expand its outreach in Central Vietnam to include a wider range of coverage for victims of dioxin poisoning, and increasing awareness about the large number of existing unexploded ordinances scattered throughout the country. \n

Because dioxin poisoning can be very difficult to identify, especially in parts of the world where medical resources are limited or too expensive, AEPD has been working hard to gather on-the-ground data to support and augment the existing literature. The latest initiative is to conduct community surveys that will help to determine the likelihood of dioxin exposure along a list of known indicators. In order to do this, the organization has chosen to design a series of surveys to be disseminated to the public at large. The Advocacy Project is providing support on the donor end as well as consulting on the technical aspects of the project.

Despite all of this, the survey has been procedurally very complicated. The lack of \u201cgood evidence\u201d and epidemiological studies, along with a series of legal battles in the 80s, 90s, following court cases from American Veterans who believe their disabilities and the disabilities of their children were caused by their contact with Agent Orange, has placed Agent Orange in a murky, indeterminate place. American Veterans \u201cwon\u201d a case in the 90s, which expanded VA services for veterans of the American War in Vietnam, but failed to establish any sense of clear liability, for the chemical\u2019s manufacturers (Dow Chemical, Monsanto, and others) and their part in rectifying the ecological and human consequences of its use.

In other words, conducting a survey on Agent Orange is like proving climate change: the backlash is fierce, the debates uneven, and the politics rarely demonstrative of the truth. Despite a mountain of studies, films, books, personal anecdotes, and the living proof of the survivors themselves\u2014the black and white of Agent Orange is still gray. This survey is not out to prove the causal relationship between birth defects and Agent Orange, and it is far from establishing any new ground on the legal responsibility of the parties involved. Rather, this survey is doing what civil society and NGOs do best: identify an issue and tackle it with or without the politics.

I spent the last few weeks in Washington D.C. working with The Advocacy Project to develop a survey which would use the Veterans Administration and the Government of Vietnam\u2019s own criteria for determining a victim of Agent Orange. This amounts to a list of 20 or so conditions that, when coupled with time served in known Agent Orange hot spots, their designation is a survivor of Agent is cleared. But this procedure is on a much smaller scale in Vietnam, largely due to a lack of resources.

With AEPD, I am developing a survey to determine the likelihood of dioxin exposure, as well as designing a database to catalog new and existing data. This survey will be implemented in one district in the province of Quang Binh. These surveys will be co-developed with AEPD and will be collected through structured and semi-structured interviews with AEPD\u2019s clients, following an extensive documentation review of relevant historical, medical, and cultural data.

Once the data is collected, a report will be made identifying the needs of Agent Orange survivors in the area and, with donor help, there will be a follow-up project to carry individual packages of support to those survivors.

It\u2019s an ambition project, but one with an exceptional partnership and great potential<\/span>.
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Posted By Jefferson Seth McIntyre

Posted Jun 30th, 2014

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