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Running for a cause

Landmine amputee makes marathon history

Chris Moon knows the landmines problem from just about every angle, first as an army officer and subsequently as a deminer in Cambodia and Mozambique. Then, two years ago in Mozambique, he stepped on one of the devices in a supposedly safe area. The landmine is believed to have been so deeply buried in the ground that it had escaped the metal detectors. The blast cost him his right leg and right hand. Now, he runs to raise money for landmine victims.

Once fitted with artificial limbs, Chris took part in the London, New York, Mozambique and Phnom Penh marathons. The 34-year-old’s most recent achievement was to complete the 137-mile Great Sahara Run known as the Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands) across some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain, an endeavour which took him six days and is the equivalent of running a marathon a day. He finished 283rd out of a total of 355 competitors in a time of 47 hours, 46 minutes and 30 seconds. The record-breaking run (Chris is the first amputee ever to take part in the event) raised £80,000 for an ICRC-supported prosthetics programme in Viet Nam, donated through the British Red Cross.

Besides fundraising, Chris has done much to raise the profile of landmine victims around the world. Yet he does not consider himself a victim: “I chose to be where the mines were, unlike the Africans,” he says. “I have also been very lucky in that I have had good medical support since my accident and a lot of personal encouragement, too. I want people to think about others who are trying to overcome disability but who don’t have the same kind of support and assistance. Many amputees have to wait years or a whole lifetime for an artificial limb.”

The living metal

The band: a set of metal sculptures “singing” about the destructive effects of landmines. In front of them: eight empty chairs with a clear sign saying “Please do not sit on the chairs”. This ensemble was part of 25 metal sculptures put on display in support of the global campaign to ban landmines by a leading Kenyan artist, Kioko Mwitiki. The site of the exhibition, a piece of farmland 45 km from Nairobi with the hills in the background, provided a perfect setting.

“The idea of the band and the empty chairs is to represent the many voices that have been calling for a ban on landmines with nobody listening,” replies Kioko Mwitiki, when asked about the significance of the sculptures.

Supported by the ICRC’s regional delegation in Nairobi, the two-and-a-half-week exhibition dubbed “The living metal” drew a large audience mainly from the diplomatic missions, schools and interested individuals. The message of the exhibition landed the artist an invitation to the Pan African Movement celebrations in Kampala, Uganda, which took place at the end of May.

Despite the fact that Kenya is not directly affected by landmines, the awareness campaign has generated a lot of interest in the country. Towards the end of 1996, a leading Kenyan band produced a record “Toys of death” calling for a total ban on landmines, and Red Cross club members at one of the universities are producing a play with the same message. A number of individuals and NGOs have also come together to form the Kenya Coalition Against Landmines (KCAL) to carry the campaign forward in the country.

Royal spotlight on landmines

Until Diana, Princess of Wales, visited Angola on a British Red Cross mission in January, a large proportion of the British public was unaware of the evils caused by landmines. The extensive media coverage that always follows the Princess ensured however that the message got through.

During her five-day tour, Diana visited hospitals, rehabilitation centres and other sites showing the devastation caused by landmines in a country emerging from 20 years of civil war. In her first speech, in Luanda, she spoke of the human tragedies caused by these weapons and of the campaign for a ban on their manufacture, transfer, sale and use.

In May, the newly elected British government announced its intention to support the Ottawa process aimed at achieving a global ban on AP landmines, slapped a blanket ban on all British trade in the weapons and vowed to destroy its own stocks by 2005.

Bridging the gap

In at the deep end

The fledgling Red Cross Society in the Pacific nation of Palau was barely four months old when flung into its first relief operation. The bridge linking Koror and Babelthaup – the nation’s two main islands – collapsed, leaving Koror’s 12,000 inhabitants without a water supply. The bridge carried pipes from Babelthaup, for Koror has no natural water source of its own.

Having declared a state of emergency, the republic’s government turned to the Palau Red Cross and asked it to supply water to every household. What followed saw the Movement in full flow.

The National Society’s plan was to pump water from a well in Babelthaup and transport it by boat in small containers. A truck on Koror would then distribute ten litres a day to every islander. But with 3,000 households to care for, the Red Cross was short of a few things. For a start, six portable pumps, 3,000 collapsible jerry cans and 6,000 buckets with lids on. Straight out of the crib, it had hardly any resources to draw on.

A Federation appeal brought lightning response from Japan, and from the United States. The Japanese Red Cross airlifted the pumps and the jerry cans in. In Hawaii, the American Red Cross bought another 6,000 containers and the US Air Force flew them from Honolulu. At the Palau end things went like clockwork.

Jerry Talbot, former Director of the Federation’s Asia/Pacific Department, was delighted. “It’s been an excellent opportunity for the National Society to show what it can do for its country, and to raise its public profile,” he said.

John Sparrow

A dangerous season

When meningitis strikes...

In sub-Saharan Africa from early November to mid-April every year, bacterial meningitis reaches epidemic proportions.

The bacteria is transmitted by air, and once it has penetrated into the blood stream, an individual could die in a matter of days. Treatment must be given within the first three days for it to be effective. In an epidemic 80 per cent of the victims are children from 5 to 15 years of age, according to a report by the International Federation.

As with many diseases today, the African meningitis epidemic also travels. Strains of the bacteria have been found in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Nepal and the UK. The meningitis epidemic in Africa infects more people and takes more lives each year. Last year was the worst ever recorded, 1997 looks like the increase will continue.

The National Societies in Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Gambia are working with the International Federation to support the local health authorities in a massive vaccination campaign. The primary goal of the programme is to turn the tide on this epidemic.

Together again

Korean father is reunited with his daughters

In January, Choe Ki-Son was reunited with his daughters, Ki My Phuong (24) and Ki My Huong (23), in Seoul, South Korea, after ten years of separation.

Mr Choe went to South Viet Nam to work for a Korean company in 1968. He was caught and imprisoned shortly after South Viet Nam fell in 1975 on a charge of obstructing North Viet Nam’s revolutionary projects. He was released in April 1987 with the help of the ICRC and the Korean Red Cross and returned to Korea leaving his Vietnamese daughters behind.

After making enquiries about his daughters’ whereabouts, he finally managed to locate them in 1993, but circumstances did not permit their reunion until this year when the National Council of Small Industries of Korea recommended that the girls join a study visit programme in Korea as industrial trainees and arranged the necessary procedures.

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