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Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Theatre performance for children

09-08-2002 News Release 02/32

About a play that alerts children to the danger posed by unexploded ordnance, large quantities of which were left behind in the areas affected by fighting between Macedonian security forces and the National Liberation Army in 2001.

The summer holidays have started in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, but in  a small village near Tetovo children are nevertheless rushing down the road towards the school. In a classroom, three actors dressed up as a chicken, a rabbit and a young Shara dog – a national symbol of strength and courage – are getting ready to perform a play that alerts children to the danger posed by unexploded ordnance (UXO), large quantities of which were left behind in the areas affected by fighting between Macedonian security forces and the National Liberation Army in 2001.

During the holidays, children will be collecting firewood and playing more often in the fields. As part of the ICRC's UXO/mine awareness programme, a play was therefore produced which shows them how a group of friends should react when encountering unexploded ordnance. Travelling from village to village, it seeks to change children's behaviour by driving home the following message: " Don't approach! Don't touch! Don't throw anything at such objects! And go and tell your parents at once! " So far, the play has been performed 34 times before more than 1,600 children. Leaflets and school timetables bearing warnings about the danger of mines and UXO are distributed after each performance.

The UXO/mine awareness programme in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was launched in August 2001 to meet the needs of civilians living in or planning to return to former conflict areas. Unlike similar programmes in other parts of the world, it focuses mainly on UXO since mines pose only a minor threat in this country.

The programme relies on a network of 19 village representatives and eight Macedonian Red Cross instructors who, together with ICRC UXO/mine awareness officers, have already given around 600 presentations on the subject. Earlier this year a media campaign was also carried out using a television and a radio spot for adults and a cartoon for small children.