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Switzerland plays host to young victims of Balkan conflicts

The holiday is already well underway for the children Keystone

A group of children from Kosovo and Bosnia are spending a two-week holiday in Switzerland, at the invitation of the president, Adolf Ogi. Included in their itinerary is a visit to the Swiss parliament, where they will meet Ogi.

This content was published on August 14, 2000 - 22:02

The 103 young visitors come from destitute homes. Many suffered serious physical injury during the wars in Kosovo and Bosnia and some lost one or both parents.

For many, their earliest memories are of war, and its aftermath, and their two-week holiday in Switzerland will be the first time they have seen a place untouched by conflict.

Unveiling the children's holiday itinerary on Monday, the head of the Swiss disaster unit, Charles Raedersdorf, said all come from areas that are being rebuilt with aid and assistance from the Swiss government.

He said the largest group of children - 77 - were from Kosovo, and had had to be bussed to Skopje in Macedonia, where they boarded their flight to Zurich last week. Raedersdorf said the remainder came from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and were a mixture of Serbs, Muslims and Croats.

The children, aged from eight to 16, are staying at a special military hospital in Melchtal in canton Obwalden. A packed programme of excursions, sporting activities and camping trips has been planned for them.

They will be looked after by soldiers, and the army will provide all the necessary medical and administrative support. Highlights of the holidays will be a boat trip, a visit to a cheese-producing dairy in the mountains, and a camping trip.

Their Swiss hosts have also arranged a visit to the federal parliament in Berne, where the children will meet the president.

Ogi said he hoped the holiday would be the first of many for disadvantaged children. He said the aim was for it become a Swiss tradition, in the same way as holidays for children from war zones after the Second World War.

The holiday, funded by the government and private sponsors, is part of the project "Switzerland with a heart - holidays for children from the Balkans".

swissinfo with agencies

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