More than 80 children can be accommodated at one time at the Save the Children Fund home in Qui Nhon.
More than 80 children can be accommodated at one time at the Save the Children Fund home in Qui Nhon. But the current communist offensive in the area could bring the centre's work to a halt. By Friday (5 May), the communists had taken towns only 30 miles (48 kms) to the north and Qui Nhon itself had been subjected to sporadic rocket attacks.
The children at the centre are some of the worst casualties of the Vietnam war. They've been hit by bullets or bomb and rocket fragments. Others are suffering from neglect. Some of the children have spinal injuries and can look forward to a life confined to a wheel chair. Tuberculosis and polio are common illnesses at the centre.
Many of the children suffer from malnutrition -- some because after their parents were killed, they've been cared for by older brothers or sisters, themselves perhaps only nine or ten years old.
There's a school as well as wards for the bedridden at the centre. And there are outpatient clinics run by the British and Commonwealth sisters and health visitors, who, together with the Vietnamese staff, have been operating the centre since it was opened five years ago.
Many babies come from Vietnamese orphanages withdrawn and backward from lack of individual attention. But they make rapid progress at the centre because they're played with and talked to. But eventually, they go back to the orphanages. Since the offensive came closer though, some children have had to be returned to parents or guardians sooner than usual.
By Friday, some of the European staff had already been withdrawn and the centre's British director said the rocket attacks and the threat of battle had made remaining staff very nervous indeed.
The Vietnamese staff have said they'll carry on as long as the area is in Saigon's hands but have made it clear it would not be ossicle to continue after that. The centre's director has said the anger of being forced to stop work is greater than ever before.