Swiss holidays for war-children

The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, has outlined his plans to invite 100 children from Bosnia and Kosovo for a 2 week summer holiday in the Swiss countryside.

This content was published on April 6, 2000 minutes

The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, has outlined his plans to invite 100 children from Bosnia and Kosovo for a 2 week summer holiday in Switzerland. The project aims to offer some of the children worst affected by
conflict a chance to recuperate in the Swiss countryside.

Adolf Ogi has strong memories of the war-traumatised child from Austria, who stayed with his own family shortly after the Second World War. The Swiss president believes the tradition of offering help to children from conflict should be continued, and now he wants to help those from the Balkans.

"I want to do something positive in the new century," he said, "the last century was a terrible one, and now we need to do things to make the future better."

Ogi's plan is to offer 100 children from Bosnia and Kosovo the chance of a two-week holiday in Switzerland. The children will stay at a former army camp in the central Swiss resort of Melchtal. All the medical and administrative support they need will be provided by the Swiss army.

"We will be taking children who have been physically affected by conflict," said Dr Jean-David Bettex, the doctor in charge of the project. "There will be 10 who are confined to wheelchairs, another 20 or 30 who need artificial limbs, and the remainder who suffered lesser physical injuries."

The children who need artificial limbs will be provided them during their stay, and if they require extra time to get used to them, they will be able to stay longer, under medical supervision.

However, children who have suffered serious psychological trauma will not be coming to Switzerland. "Such children could not benefit from what we are offering," said Dr Bettex. "It would only traumatise them further to bring them to unfamiliar surroundings."

A whole series of activities is planned for the children during their stay in Switzerland. They will be taken to the Alps, they will visit Swiss museums, and they will take part in sporting events in Melchtal itself. Nevertheless there is scepticism about the plan to put the army in charge of the project. The children will be cared for by Swiss soldiers in uniform, and some experts believe this could upset children who have learnt the hard way to fear the military.

But Adolf Ogi remains convinced the plan is a good one. "The army has everything we need," he said, "doctors, infrastructure, transport, translators, everything. So we shouldn't ask if the army is the right body to use, the important thing is that someone is doing it."

by Imogen Foulkes

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