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Founder of Terre des Hommes dies

Edmond Kaiser, the founder of the Swiss humanitarian organisation, Terre des Hommes, has died in India at the age of 86.

This content was published on March 5, 2000 - 14:47

Edmond Kaiser, the founder of the Swiss humanitarian organisation, Terre des Hommes, has died in India at the age of 86.

A spokesman for Sentinelles, another children's charity set up by Kaiser, said he died on Saturday following an illness. He gave no further details.

Kaiser was born to a Jewish family in Paris in 1914. He followed his mother to the Swiss city of Lausanne at the beginning of the 1930s, when he became interested in poetry and the theatre.

He returned to France with his first wife and worked with the French resistance. He was condemned to death by the Nazis.

Kaiser moved back to Switzerland in 1947.

A report about the conditions of children in Algeria so shocked Kaiser that he set up Terre des Hommes in Lausanne in 1960. It is now a world-wide organisation, dedicated to helping children caught up in poverty, illness and war.

"If someone is on the ground crying, we try to pick them up, just like we would care for an injured bird, love it and then help it fly again," Kaiser said in a newspaper interview on his 80th birthday.

He left Terre des Hommes in 1979 to work with Sentinelles, which combats the sexual mutilation, prostitution and slavery of children in developping countries.

The French government awarded Kaiser a Legion of Honour in 1990, but he turned it down. "Sitting in the middle of dead or suffering Biafran children, or with the children of Vietnam whose skin has been peeled away by napalm, it would be as if I found it normal to be honoured for their martyrdom," he wrote in a letter to the French government.

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, said he was deeply moved to hear of Kaiser's death.

"His work on behalf of children was a model for Switzerland's humanitarian policies."

Sentinelles said it was Kaiser's wish to be buried in a simple grave in India.

From staff and wire reports

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