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Piccard gives hope to Noma victims

Bertrand Piccard is using Davos to draw attention to the plight of Noma victims

(Keystone Archive)

Economic concerns are at the forefront of most delegates' minds at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, but many charities and campaigning organisations are using the event to heighten their profiles and to raise cash as well.

The Swiss adventurer and balloonist, Bertrand Piccard, is in Davos to represent the Winds Of Hope Foundation. He created the organisation with fellow balloonist, Brian Jones, with whom he successfully circumnavigated the globe in March 1999.

The Winds of Hope Foundation fights against forgotten or neglected causes throughout the world and especially those affecting children.

It is at the forefront of a campaign against Noma, a disfiguring disease which affects children in Asia, South America and sub-Saharan Africa.

Piccard wants to use the Forum and other high profile events to raise awareness about this largely forgotten disease.

"Through the Winds of Hope, we are now funding the entire national prevention programme in Niger," Piccard told swissinfo. "We want to teach people in every village how to detect early symptoms."

Detection is the key as the disease can be treated if caught early enough but at the moment most parents don't realise what's wrong with their children before it's too late.

Piccard says the World Economic Forum is a great place to get things done.

"No one has anything to prove here," he said. "You meet people on a very equal footing and you're able to be very direct. It's a good atmosphere to make links with people and that's the way you get on in life."

On a more personal level, Piccard says he's not planning any more adventures like his round the world balloon trip. For now, he says he's happy to devote as much time as possible to the Winds Of Hope.

by Michael Hollingdale


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