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Nowhere else to turn

Destitute people in conflictstricken Afghanistan, who have no family or other safety network to support and care for them, now have new hope. They are taken into communities called Marastoons, the Afghan word for shelter, operated by the Afghan Red Crescent. Living and working together in small compounds, individuals are trained in a variety of professions including tailoring, knitting, embroidery and carpentry. Children attend schools located in the Marastoons, and primary health care is available to the entire

Currently, Marastoons are operating in the capital, Kabul, Jalalabad in the east, Herat in the north-west and Mazar-i-Sharif in the north.

The International Federation and the ICRC each assist these communities to survive. The ICRC sponsors and coordinates the construction and renovation of the Marastoons. The Federation supports programmes in the health and education sectors.

Gert van Amersfoort

Part of Red Cross history

For the past 27 years, Larissa Sobach has been a Red Cross visiting nurse in Vleika, a town in the centre of Belarus. She loves her job and could not imagine working anywhere else. But, nowadays, she says it is much harder to care for her patients than it used to be as she lacks many basic medicines.

“I have handicapped patients who don’t have a wheelchair and I have a general lack of syringes, bandages and basic medicines like aspirin and vitamins. It is hard when you are not able to relieve the pain for many of the patients. Before, it was easier to get supplies,” she says.

Visiting 41 patients every week, Larissa works for the local Red Cross as one of two such nurses in the town. Even on weekends and holidays, her patients know where to find her. “There is a phone, and if I am needed, I am always available,” she says. One of her patients, a 33-year-old handicapped man, who lives alone in a small house, can hardly imagine how he would survive without Larissa.

In what little spare time she has, Larissa is studying the history of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. A history in which she plays an important role herself.

Helge Kvam

Lost and found

Photo album restores missing infants to their parents

In June, the ICRC, in cooperation with UNICEF, published a 44-page booklet with the photos of 220 unaccompanied children who became separated from their parents during the repatriation to Rwanda from the former Zaire in November 1996. Most were under six years of age and therefore unable to give their names or accurate information about their families.

Since the 2,500 copies of the booklet were distributed throughout Rwanda, families from all over the country have been coming forward. Thus far some 56 children have been reunited with their families thanks to the photo-tracing programme. An additional 13 children have been identified by former neighbours or friends and the task of locating their families has begun. In at least another 100 cases information has been provided which could lead to a definite identification of the child. The success of the first “photo album” led to the publication in September of a second brochure featuring 440 infants.

Since 1994, 48,127 family reunifications involving Rwandan children have been carried out, nearly 11,266 of these by the ICRC. But there are over 10,000 Rwandan children yet to be reunited. Many of these are either suffering from trauma or are too young to provide information about their identity or that of their family. These and other difficult cases will be the major focus of the work of the ICRC and other agencies involved in this field in the coming months.

What you think of Red Cross, Red Crescent

Red Cross, Red Crescent magazine is accessible, informative, well-presented and a source of pride to the Movement. This was the view of the majority of respondents in an independent readership survey commissioned by the ICRC and the International Federation at the beginning of this year. The survey, carried out by a market research firm, was initiated in order to determine the impact and effectiveness of the publication. National Societies and ICRC and Federation delegations, which are responsible for the redistribution of 65 per cent of the magazine’s print run, were contacted as well as a few individual addressees.

A number of different questions were posed, including likes and dislikes about the magazine and its usefulness both personally and professionally. Respondents were also asked to agree or disagree with a selection of positive and negative statements about the magazine. A resounding affirmation of the importance of the magazine to our readers emerged from the survey. We would like to thank all those who participated for their vote of confidence. To continue this important dialogue, we would be pleased to hear from you at any time and welcome comments and criticisms. Your input helps us to constantly raise the standards of this magazine.

A national effort

Thai Red Cross assists Cambodian refugees

With the sounds of gunfire just across the border in Cambodia, Thai Red Cross staff provide medical attention for some 800 people a day at a refugee camp in the village of Chong Chom, close to the Thai border. Villagers and farmers from the Cambodian provinces of Seamraj and Samrong have abandoned their homes and fled north to the safety of Thailand as battles and skirmishes between rival parties move ever closer.

In a makeshift settlement with a current population of 21,770, the displaced people continue to arrive every day, as the edges of the blue-topped tent city expand across the rolling plains. Professional staff from the Thai Red Cross are providing medical attention for the entire camp population, and emergency medical care when necessary. Volunteers from the nearby Surin chapter are feeding about 80 patients admitted daily for intensive care.

Response to this most recent influx of people displaced by the conflict is a coordinated national effort of the Thai Red Cross. The headquarters in Bangkok trains, maintains and deploys the emergency medical teams. The Red Cross health station at Surin provides health services that complement the local government programmes in that province, and also provides warehousing for the stocking and replenishment of emergency food and medicine. The relief staff and volunteers in the camp drive from the Surin chapter, which is located about 60 km from Chong Chom.

Howard Arfin

A giant step forward

Conference in Oslo agrees treaty to ban anti-personnel landmines

More than 120 States, including 91 signatories to the Brussels Declaration, met in Oslo in the first three weeks of September to conclude the final text of a treaty banning anti-personnel landmines. The ICRC and the Federation, ably supported by the Norwegian Red Cross, participated in the negotiations as observers, determined to ensure that the Oslo Diplomatic Conference would agree to nothing less than a total prohibition on the production, transfer, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel mines. The conference, which was hosted by the Norwegian government, represented a critical step forward in the global effort to put an end to the scourge of landmines. Norway itself had declared a total ban on anti-personnel mines in 1995 following an energetic campaign by the Norwegian Red Cross.

A number of obstacles blocked the path towards an immediate and comprehensive prohibition, but the majority of governments were determined that there should be no exceptions and no reservations to the treaty, which will be opened for signature to all States from 3 to 4 December 1997 in Ottawa. The treaty ban on anti-personnel mines represents the first time ever that a weapon already in widespread use has been prohibited under international humanitarian law.

Although the negotiations were held behind closed doors, members of the general public were able to familiarize themselves with the mines issue by visiting a field hospital set up outside the Conference Centre by the Norwegian Red Cross. The tent, complete with an exhibition on landmines, operating table and a display of surgical instruments used in the treatment of mine victims, was staffed by a nurse who had assisted mine victims in a number of mine-affected countries.

Mary-Anne Andersen

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