Vulnerability and resiliency of Vietnamese community in New Orleans East post Katrina and oil spill
*Chihyang Hu, LSUHSC School of Public Health
Keywords: Vietnamese American, resilience, vulnerability, Katrina, oil spill
In 2005, hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck Louisiana and caused devastating damage. The City of New Orleans was flooded for almost a month and many residents were evacuated and displaced. After the flood water was pumped out, rebuilding efforts began. Among the first to return were the Vietnamese American community in the New Orleans East. Their return and rebuilding efforts has demonstrated their great cohesiveness and resilience when considering most of them were immigrated to US in the late 1970s. Vietnamese immigrants began to settle in Louisiana in the late 1970s because its climate, coastal environment and fishing industries, were similar to their home country Vietnam. In New Orleans area, Vietnamese population is estimated to be more 14,000. The majority locates in New Orleans East and West Bank. The community in New Orleans East is considered the most concentrated Vietnamese American population in the United States with population more than 6000 pre-Katrina. Most of residents were first-generation Vietnamese immigrants with limited English efficiency and still practice their traditional profession such as fishing, farming, or seafood processing. Like other minority communities, vulnerabilities exist even before Katrina including lack of adequate health care access, limited English proficient. After Katrina, in addition to the property loss, many hurricane debris and waste from the city were buried near this community in an unlined landfill. Until today, residents still have great concerns over the potential landfill leakage. With many challenges and uncertainties, this Vietnamese American community not only had the majority of the community returned, they also formed a community organization to lead the rebuilding effort. After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, they face more challenges since the most fishing industries and coastal population are greatly affected and the long term health impact is still uncertain. This presentation will discuss the culture factors contributing to their resilience, and the vulnerability, and the challenges they experienced after Katrina and the oil spill.