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In sickness and in health

It doesn’t happen every day, so the residents of the International Post-trauma Rehabilitation Centre (IPTRC) in Erevan, Armenia, have cause for celebration. Two of them, Karineh Tovmasian, a 23-year-old from Spitak who suffered spinal trauma in the 1988 earth-quake, and Hrach Stepanian, 24, from Ani, injured in a car acci-dent in the same year, are plan-ning to be married. They met while they were receiving rehabi-litation treatment at the centre. Once married, in November this year, the couple hopes to make a home for themselves in Erevan.

This heart-warming story highlights the essential role that the IPTRC plays not just in caring for the physical needs of patients but of setting them back on the road to psychological recovery. The centre was founded by the Federation, the Armenian Red Cross Society and the Armenian Ministry of Health in the wake of the earthquake that killed 25,000 people and injured around 30,000 in December 1988. It was the first of its kind in the former Soviet Union, and 26 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and six governments contributed funds to the building of the 110-bed facility.

Patient care is focused on the physical, psychological and social needs of the sufferers of spinal cord injuries, who today include victims of factory and traffic accidents as well as civilian and military casualties of the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In the centre’s Professional Rehabilitation Department, pa-tients can learn one of a number of crafts including woodcarving, jewellery design, shoemaking, carpet weaving and tapestry. Funds are currently being sought by the Armenian Red Cross for the purchase of tool kits for patients who have completed their rehabilitation to use at home. Not only will this give patients the means to earn a little money from the sale of their handicrafts, it will also enable them to play an active role in society when they return to their families.

Jessica Barry


Emblem awareness

Jordan promotes red crescent

To mark this year’s World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day on 8 May, the Jordan National Red Crescent Society launched a campaign to promote greater respect for the red crescent emblem. The National Society used a number of different means to introduce and define the emblem, explain its proper use and curb its misuse.

These included producing a film in cooperation with the ICRC that was shown on Jordanian television every day for a week, distributing posters to ministries and other relevant authorities and services, as well as universities, student unions and Red Crescent branches, and sending letters to government ministries and services. The Red Crescent also organised and participated in seminars on international humanitarian law and respect for the emblem and held a festival in the Royal Palace under the auspices of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hassan and Her Royal Highness Princess Tharwat, Honorary Vice President of the Jordanian Red Crescent.


IHL fund

The Icelandic Red Cross will soon start awarding scholarships for the study of human rights and international humanitarian law. The first scholarships were announced on World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, 8 May. They are financed by a fund established in memory of Sveinn Björnsson, the first chairman of the Icelandic Red Cross, as well as the country’s president.


Living with the D-word

Or why the word “dissemination” isn’t exactly user-friendly

At a dinner party recently, I – innocently as usual – gave my business card to the person seated next to me. After looking at my card, he burst out laughing and, after gaining control of himself, said: “I thought it said Discrimination Officer”. Having had this experience countless times before, I should have known better.

However, it was not the worst of my experiences. My brother thinks that I work for the Red Cross in the field of insemination. I have not had the courage to ask my parents what they think of my “project” in Jerusalem.

My computer has its own objections. The spelling programme tells me politely but firmly that I should choose another expression to explain what it is I do. I know that this advice is well meant, but how can I tell it that higher authorities in Geneva do not agree?

Yet life with the D-word has its positive side. It stimulates discussion and the exchange of ideas. I remember one occasion when a colleague, after listening to my hour-long explanation of what I did, said she now understood the nature of the project, but could I just tell her what the word actually meant. “Is it something medical?” she asked. In fact, I think it was a brave question, because few of us have dared to ask if this word has an actual meaning. On the contrary, we use it liberally in our written and spoken communications, as if it was perfectly obvious to the world what it is we do.

Meetings are held at great length and all over the world to develop activities around the D-word. These activities are aimed at raising awareness of international humanitarian law and clarifying the role and philosophy of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Personally, I would be interested to see statistics indicating just how much time is spent clarifying the D-word itself.

After a year of living with a title containing the dreaded D-word, I am now happy to return to the normal world with normal words. I know that life there is more boring. I know that nobody is interested in my boring profession there. And I know that there will be times that I will miss my life with the D-word.

Harri Saukkomaa
(Harri Saukkomaa, a producer of
documentary films in Finland, was an ICRC dissemination delegate in Jerusalem in 1994 and 1995.)


Young people work together

To pave the way for greater stability in the Srem-Baranja region, the ICRC has recently initiated a community-based project there promoting dialogue between young Croats and Serbs. Its objective is to encourage young people on both sides of the former confrontation line to respect and care for others, motivating them to set up Red Cross youth structures in their schools.

Volunteer teachers from every primary and secondary school in the region will be trained to act as catalysts for the project, introducing their students to Red Cross ideas and helping them to organise humanitarian activities for their communities. Such wide-spread promotion of humanitarian behaviour in schools will help build bridges between young Croats and Serbs, thereby en-couraging them to seek solutions together for problems common to both communities.


Reaching out to young minds

Teaching the basics of inter-national humanitarian law in a region as vast as the former Soviet Union is no easy task, but the ICRC is rising to the challenge. One am-bitious project involves producing and distributing 2.3 million school books with a humanitarian message to secondary schools throughout the Russian Federation. Similar programmes have been designed for Georgia, Armenia and Tajikistan.

During its pilot phase in 1995-1996, the programme conducted research in 17 regions and now that it has the seal of approval from the Ministry of Education in each of the targeted countries, it is set to be implemented shortly. The idea is to encourage children aged 11 and 12 to look at attitudes and reactions to violence in selected literary texts. The ICRC chose literature classes as the vehicle for this message because the classes can provide an emotional awareness of the problem via a common culture.

Nino Gvaramadzé, dissemina-tion assistant from Tbilisi, Georgia, has seen that children are interested in the subject and the themes developed, particularly as they are given the opportunity to speak up. As the programme
gains momentum, its Moscow-based coordinator Alain Deletroz is optimistic. He is also fully aware, however, that the results of today’s efforts will only be seen tomorrow.

The programme has particular significance for conflict-torn areas. Former French teacher and dissem-ination assistant Nigina Sadykova from Dushanbe in Tajikistan says: “I am pleased to be useful by making my knowledge available to develop something that concerns the children of my country... I am proud when I see children hugging their books protectively.”

Lesley Botez


Small projects, big difference

Haitian community strikes water

Chanbren has been without its own source of drinking water for as long as anyone
can remember. The small community lies on the “Plaine du Cul de Sac”, a region of 85 sq. km. where the Haitian-American Sugar Company (HASCO) set up a large number of sugar cane plantations over 80 years ago. In order to be able to irrigate their crops, HASCO drilled wells in a number of locations. In Chanbren, how-ever, no water was found and HASCO abandoned the site.

According to Remiste Kerni-zan, who at the age of 80 is the village’s oldest inhabitant, one day water appeared in the place where the drilling had taken place previously. In order to be able to make use of it, the villagers built a concrete drum on top of the source. But the water was polluted by dust and dirt left by cows, goats, donkeys and other animals that came to slake their thirst. So children still had an hour’s walk to collect water suitable for drinking.

In April this year, Phamilus Millus, one of 23 Haitian Red Cross regional animators for the Micro-Projects Programme, visited the community. He talked to the villagers about their most urgent need – access to clean drinking water – and, following a study of the quality and quantity of the well water, proposed a solution.

Using local labour and materials, and with technical and financial support from the Federation and the Netherlands Red Cross, a reservoir of 5,000 gallons was constructed on top of the well and connected to a new public fountain some 20 metres away. The fountain’s three taps serve the 1,577 residents of Chanbren, while water flowing out is caught in a basin that can be used for washing clothes. A fence was made to protect this precious source from thirsty animals, which were given their own basin outside the fence.

Today the fountain has become a regular meeting place for villagers, who plan to plant some trees and bushes to further enhance it.


Role model

Korean star boosts blood donation

A rising TV star has volunteered to help pro-mote blood donation in Korea. Miss Chi-Ho Kim will serve as a model and actress for the Korean Red Cross’s blood campaign for one year.

“I have been impressed with the activities of the Korean Red Cross at different disasters and I am happy to participate in the blood donation activities of the Red Cross,” she said. Miss Kim went on to say that she was touched by the dedication of many young donors at a centre in Seoul which she visited to pose for publicity posters, and their commitment inspired her to become a regular donor herself.



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