During the Vietnam War, the Communist government of North Vietnam was successful in limiting the country’s social problems to those directly connected with the war effort. Although malnutrition and poverty were common, corruption was rare and the incidence of drugs, prostitution, and crime was limited.
Following the war, Vietnam developed high rates of birth defects, probably due to the aerial spraying of Agent Orange and other chemical herbicides during the war. The U.S. military sprayed these defoliants on forests and crops to help expose the hiding places of Communist forces. As a consequence, innumerable Vietnamese were exposed to extremely toxic byproducts known as dioxins, which have been associated with severe birth defects and certain rare cancers in humans. Toxins that leaked into croplands and rivers around the sprayed areas also had long-term effects on the food supply of the country as a whole. Tests conducted after the war showed that considerable levels of dioxins were present in fish, a staple of the Vietnamese diet, and in milk from nursing mothers.
Land mines from the war also posed a significant problem. Concealed by both U.S. and Communist forces, land mines continued to kill and cripple people after the war. From the end of the war in 1975 to 2005, more than 58,000 Vietnamese were killed by land mines—more than all the U.S. servicemen who died during the war.
Social problems have increased since the economic reforms of 1986. Corruption has escalated as increasing amounts of money circulate through society. Unemployment is also on the rise, especially among young people. Drug addiction and alcoholism are becoming serious problems; prostitution is rampant, especially in urban areas; and incidents of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) have increased in Vietnam. Many of these social ills may be inevitable consequences of the modernization process.
However, they represent a serious challenge to a government determined to bring about economic development without the accompanying problems of social and political instability. "Vietnam" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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