Story: Development assistance and humanitarian aid

Medical aid to South Vietnam

Humanitarian aid was sometimes highly politicised. Despite doubts about the regime in power at the time, the New Zealand government provided aid to South Vietnam in the early 1960s. Vietnam had been partitioned into two regimes in 1954, with  the United States (a New Zealand ally) supporting the southern state.

In 1961 over £40,000 ($1.6 million today) was spent on flood relief and development projects in South Vietnam, technical training in New Zealand was provided for more than 30 South Vietnamese, and £100,000 was approved for a science faculty at Saigon University. Communist North Vietnam received nothing. The US pushed hard for New Zealand military aid to the South Vietnamese government, which faced resistance from the North Vietnamese and from local resistance movement the Viet Cong. In 1963, rather than provide military assistance, New Zealand sent a civilian medical team, shown here at Binh Dinh hospital in Qui Nhon. The war in Vietnam escalated through the 1960s, and in 1965 a small New Zealand combat force was committed. The New Zealand medics in Qui Nhon spent most of their time helping Vietnamese injured as a result of the war. They also dealt with infectious diseases – including mumps, hookworm, malaria, pneumonia, bubonic plague and polio – and accidents.


Using this item

Archives New Zealand - Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga
Reference: New Zealanders in South-East Asia. National Film Unit, 1965

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How to cite this page:

John Overton, 'Development assistance and humanitarian aid - Aid and politics', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 1 December 2022)

Story by John Overton, published 20 Jun 2012