Sunday, 2 June 2013

Fighting the stereotypes: disabilities report launch

UNICEF launched its annual flagship report, State of the World’s Children, in Da Nang, Vietnam. The subject was disability. I was on the ground with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake as he visited centres around Da Nang and met children with disabilities.

Children with disabilities pose for a photo after their drum game
© UNICEF EAPRO/2013/Andy Brown
I arrived in Vietnam two days before the report launch. From the air, Da Nang is stunning. We came in to land at sunset, with a cloudless view across a wide river delta and out to sea. Trees and village houses cast long shadows across the waterways and mud-brown fields. Near the coast, a handful of limestone peaks (the Marble Mountains) rose out of an otherwise flat landscape. Here and there, a few cargo boats made their way downstream to the sea.

But Da Nang also has a dark side. During the Vietnam War, its airfield was used to store containers of ‘Agent Orange’, a chemical that was sprayed over the countryside to destroy crops and forests. Now, almost four decades later, Da Nang still has one of the highest rates of birth defects in the region. This is widely attributed to Agent Orange, which contaminates the water supply and food chain.