Bosnia and Herzegovina + 2 more

Help for war-damaged children in Bosnia and Kosovo

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Ferrero-Waldner launches joint project with Slovenia

Vienna/Graz/Ljubljana, 13 December 2002 - With a joint project Austria and Slovenia are now providing assistance for children traumatised by the war in Bosnia and Kosovo. Together with the Slovenian foundation "Together" and the Graz-based association "Omega", the CEEC Assistance Programme of the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs is building two community centres in Bosnia and Kosovo where children suffering from traumas and psychological problems as a result of their experiences during the war will be treated by psychologists and social workers. The children's parents will also take part in the psychological therapy programmes, since involving the whole family increases the chances that the young war victims will find their way back to a normal life.

To accompany its work with those directly affected the project also aims to create greater public understanding for the plight of traumatised children, firstly by improving training in the field of child protection and, secondly, by raising awareness of children's rights in society at large. The new community centres will therefore also provide advice and counselling for teachers, social workers and staff from organisations involved in work with children and young people. These advisory activities will be supplemented by information programmes for youth groups and school classes, the intention being that open discussion of the psychological damage caused by the war will increase peer acceptance of children affected by these problems.

The community centre in Bosnia will be run by the Bosnian partner organisation "Osmijeh, Center for Psychological Assistance and Development of Voluntary Work". The centre's activities will be concentrated on the region covering the cantons of Tuzla and Senica Doboj. In Kosovo the community centre is being built in the Ferizaj region, and will be managed by the "Center for Promotion of Education in Kosovo".

For the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the project represents the realisation of a concern that is particularly close to her heart: "Children are the most defenceless victims of war and suffer most from the effects of violence. Although the damage is invisible on the outside, the experience of war has disastrous long-term consequences for children. With this project we are giving these children and their families the chance to work through their traumatic wartime experiences and positively shape their own future." Benita Ferrero-Waldner knows from her own experience how important this support is. "During the Second World War my father lost a leg due to a mine, but he was still able to practise his profession. I want to offer the very same chance to other people who have been affected by war."

The Foreign Minister also brings her personal commitment to the care of war victims and the protection of the defenceless to bear in her capacity of President of the United Nations' "Human Security Network", under whose aegis the joint Austro-Slovenian project in Bosnia and Kosovo is being implemented.