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Good sport

Football shows solidarity with mine victims

Football is the world’s most popular sport, played and watched by millions. In streets, parks and gardens in every country, you will find children — and adults — enjoying the fun of just kicking a ball around. This simple pleasure is denied to thousands who have lost limbs to landmines. By being fitted with an artificial limb, many of these people rediscover a host of activities of which they have been deprived — including playing football.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has decided to lend its support to the ICRC’s efforts to assist the victims of anti-personnel landmines. It has pledged a donation of one million Swiss francs to two prosthetic centres, one in Georgia and the other in Uganda, over the next three years. In addition, UEFA offered the ICRC free advertising space during the 1997/1998 season of UEFA Champions League matches during which a TV spot highlighting the suffering of landmine victims could be broadcast. The spot has already been seen in some 20 countries, with an estimated audience of 180 million people.

While the UEFA President, Lennart Johansson, was in Georgia at the end of October 1997, he paid a visit to the ICRC delegation and the prosthetic centre in Tblisi. The high point of his trip was undoubtedly the football match between Tblisi’s junior side and some young mine victims. For a brief moment, the teenagers were able to forget that they had ever had an artificial limb.

There at hand

On 26 September 1997 at 2.33 in the morning a powerful earthquake awoke the people of central Italy. Within seconds, 11 people were killed, 48 communities were seriously damaged, 100,000 people were left in need of shelter and four major hospitals had to be evacuated. The Italian Red Cross moved quickly into action and within 48 hours had distributed 4,200 blankets, opened two camps to distribute more than 10,000 meals per day, and assisted the evacuation of hospitals and clinics.

Months after the earthquake, hundreds of people remain homeless as the reconstruction process is only beginning to get under way. The Italian Red Cross continues to provide material assistance and, perhaps more importantly, psychological support to people still traumatized by the disaster. As one victim says, “... just having someone who listens and offers their time and compassion gives you the courage to begin rebuilding.”

Long-awaited gift to the world

Anti-personnel mine ban treaty signed by 123 states

Leaders from around the world gathered in the Canadian capital Ottawa from 3 to 4 December 1997 to sign a comprehensive ban on the global production, use, transfer and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines. These are the deadliest of all landmines — the ones which are detonated by the slightest pressure of a foot or a child at play. Anti-personnel landmines kill or maim thousands of soldiers and civilians every year.

Thanks in large part to the energetic and persistent work carried out by National Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the ICRC, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and numerous players in the international community to raise awareness of the mine problem, a total of 123 States signed the treaty, which makes it one of the highest number of signatories to an international law treaty.

The treaty was praised by several State leaders and the President of the ICRC, Cornelio Sommaruga, as a “victory for humanity”, but “the real victory will come only when all existing mines have been cleared from battlefields and farm fields, and the victims receive the care they need,” said Sommaruga.

Several States used the opportunity of the signing ceremony to announce increased funding for mine clearance and mine victim assistance. The treaty mentions that the latter can be provided through organizations such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

Historic homecoming

The Japanese and North Korean Red Cross reunite families

A special reunion took place at Tokyo’s Narita Airport on 8 November, 1997. Decades after leaving their country, 15 Japanese women married to North Korean men were able to return home for a visit. The women were among 1,800 who accompanied their husbands to the Democratic Republic of Korea as part of a repatriation programme begun in 1958. The Japanese and North Korean Red Cross Societies were respon-sible for organizing the reunions.

The one-week visit began with a reception hosted by the Japanese Red Cross. The women returned to their villages for two nights and three days. Over 160 family members and friends visited the women during their stay. The elation at being together was tempered, however, by the sadness of the many years separated.

Four staff members of the North Korean Red Cross travelled with the women to Japan. While the wives spent precious time with family and friends, the staff members were visiting Red Cross facilities and making new friends with volunteers of the Japanese Red Cross. This historic and successful collaboration between the two Red Cross Societies will hopefully open the way for other areas of cooperation between Japan and North Korea.

Aid at bomb blast in Sri Lanka

In the parking lot of the Galadari Hotel in Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, a massive bomb blast killed 11 people and severely wounded more than 90. Following the blast, a gun battle ensued for more than two hours between security forces and rebels responsible for carrying out the bombing.

On learning of the explosion, the Sri Lankan Red Cross was on the scene checking for casualties and tending to the wounded. Volunteers entered affected buildings and went room to room looking for victims.

This is not the first time the Red Cross has responded to violence in Colombo. In the past few years, it has provided assistance at similar explosions at the Central Bank, the Pettah bus stand and the Dehiwela railway station.

So Why?

African musicians defy war

There are few better ways of reaching out to people than through music. And when the message concerns Africa, who best to convey it than African musicians? This was the impetus behind a campaign to promote greater respect for civilians in war involving six of Africa’s leading musicians and supported by the ICRC.

The six musicians, Youssou N’dour of Senegal, Papa Wemba of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jabu Khanyile and Bayete of South Africa, Lagbaja of Nigeria, Lourdes Van-Dunem of Angola and Lucky Dube of South Africa, joined forces to mobilize their enormous influence to tell Africans that enough is enough and that something needs to be done to protect civilians in wartime.

Prior to the campaign launch, the musicians undertook a journey through some of the conflict-stricken regions of Africa, in order to be truly in touch with the realities about which they were singing. As a result of this they recorded So Why?, an emotional collective song appealing for reconciliation in Africa. The campaign was officially launched in October 1997 in 34 African countries with the release of a CD, a book and a documentary film (for details see p. 27).

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