[Spina Bifida] is the only birth defect recognised by the US as a legacy of Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant sprayed by American troops from 1965 until 1971 during the Vietnam war. But there is worse, far worse, in this hospital, the largest in south Vietnam. Some of the most severely affected babies, abandoned by their parents, live on two floors in a wing known as the Peace Village.
Entering it is like stepping back 40 years to the days of Thalidomide, the morning-sickness pill prescribed in Britain in the 1960s that left babies hideously deformed. In the first room, cots line the walls. In one, a four-year-old girl rocks on all fours, gently banging her head against the bars. A nurse turns her round to reveal a face with no eyes. Under a thick fringe of dark hair, there are soft indentations in the skin either side of her nose, where her eyes should be. Above her cot a printed label gives her name as Tran Sinh, and her date of birth as 27 February 2002. According to the nurses she was born in an area heavily sprayed with Agent Orange, where the land is still contaminated 35 years after the spraying stopped.