Orthopedic aids for an independent life

Many people in Vietnam are still affected by the late effects of the American use of poisons in the Vietnam War between 1962 and 1971. Almost 50 years after the end of the war, the so-called defoliant “Agent Orange” still poses a threat to the population due to the toxic dioxin. Each year, an estimated 3,500 children are born with severe physical and mental disabilities resulting from the use of Agent Orange.

Green Cross Switzerland’s SOCMED program in Vietnam focuses on orthopedic projects, as the country’s health insurance does not cover the cost of orthopedic aids. As part of these aid projects, affected children and young adults receive medical treatment (including surgery, physiotherapy, rehabilitation) and are fitted with prostheses or orthoses. Without the orthopedic treatments, some affected individuals cannot walk independently and attend school or complete their education, which is why the provision of assistive devices is enormously important.

Because children grow, and to ensure sustainability, regular follow-up treatments and adjustments to assistive devices are made. For young children in particular, these may be necessary over a period of 10 to 15 years, as orthoses and prostheses need to be replaced regularly due to growth. This long-term support significantly improves the quality of life of those affected and enables them to lead a self-determined life.

Cooperation with health care facilities and Swiss specialist team

Green Cross Switzerland cooperates with various health institutions for the implementation of the orthopedic projects, including the training center for orthopedic technicians (VIETCOT), the Huong Sen Rehabilitation Center for Children in Tuyen Quang and the hospitals for orthopedics and rehabilitation in Thai Nguyen and Da Nang. This cooperation strengthens structures that make it possible to provide medical, psychological and social support to people affected by Agent Orange, especially those from poorer backgrounds, with little administrative effort.

In addition, Green Cross Switzerland supports the voluntary relief work of Dr. Daniel Hueskes and Dr. Claude Müller. Since 2004, Swiss orthopedists and physicians have volunteered to help victims of Agent Orange, usually traveling to Vietnam once a year for three weeks. The Swiss specialists work closely with local specialists, train them and exchange experiences.

Promotion of local professionals

One of Green Cross Switzerland’s principles is “helping people to help themselves”. Therefore, Green Cross also supports the further education of medical personnel such as orthopedic technicians as well as the training of health workers in remote villages. Medical personnel often lack the money for further training courses. However, with the support of Green Cross, they can participate in various courses and further training, which improves orthopedic care in the country and thus enables those affected by Agent Orange to receive higher-quality medical treatment. For example, one of the main topics of the continuing education programs is early detection and protection against deformities.

Da Nang – Support of two day care centers and the hospital for orthopedics and rehabilitation.

In Da Nang, Green Cross Switzerland cooperates with the Danang Association for Victims of Agent Orange (DAVA) and accordingly supports two day care centers that rely on donations. There, children and adolescents affected by Agent Orange receive care, nursing, medical examinations, warm meals and adapted schooling. Through sports and play activities, the children are also helped to strengthen their self-confidence and reduce psychological stress. A total of about 120 children can be cared for in both day care centers.

Furthermore, Green Cross Switzerland provides assistance to the Da Nang-based Hospital for Orthopedics and Rehabilitation in the supply of orthopedic aids as well as physiotherapy for children with disabilities.

Thai Nguyen – Hospital for Orthopedics and Rehabilitation

The Hospital for Orthopedics and Rehabilitation in Thai Nguyen also receives aid from Green Cross Switzerland. In addition to a department for surgical correction of deformities, it has a department for rehabilitation, movement and speech therapy, and a workshop for the manufacture of orthopedic aids. The funds help especially in the orthopedic treatment of children from poorer families. In addition, donations can also cover the cost of rehabilitation or specific medications.

Tuyen Quang – Huong Sen Hospital for Rehabilitation

In Tuyen Quang, Green Cross Switzerland supports not only the Association for the Disabled and Orphans but also the local Huong Sen Hospital for Rehabilitation.

Huong Sen Hospital treats many cases of cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, speech problems and autism in children. The hospital uses the gentle but very effective Ponsenti method to treat clubfoot. This was introduced during an honorary working visit by Dr. Claude Müller from Basel.

In addition, the hospital is engaged in the introduction and strengthening of Commune Based Rehabilitation (CBR). In this program, further training is provided for the staff of health centers. In addition, local residents are trained as health care workers. In this way, families who live far from the main road and would otherwise have little access to medical examinations can be reached.