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
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 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.
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.
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
(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
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.”
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
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
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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