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Russian Federation / Chechnya: New mine-awareness cartoon for schoolchildren

19-09-2002 News Release 02/38

As children go back to school in Chechnya and in the camps for internally displaced people in neighbouring Ingushetia, they can see their old friend Cheerdig – a folk hero turned mine-awareness teacher – in a new ICRC animated cartoon broadcast on local television.

The launch of the cartoon was planned to coincide with the start of autumn, which is the most dangerous season for civilians in the region as they venture outside their villages to collect firewood, often in areas littered with mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs). Cheerdig – a little boy known for his wise behaviour – reminds children about the dangers of going into the forest and shows them how to recognize warning signs indicating the presence of mines.

The ICRC has used Cheerdig in its mine-awareness programme since 2001. It was the children themselves who chose him – a trusted figure – to teach them about the dangers of mines. He was first introduced in a puppet show on mines and UXOs, which has so far been performed some 200 times for displaced children in Ingushetia and pupils in Chechnya. Cheerdig also appears in comic books and is regularly featured in the Chechen children's magazine Rainbow .

The programme targets children as they are an especially vulnerable group. Once they are made aware of the dangers they face, children use Cheerdig as a role model and teach what they know to others. According to Rebecca Thomson, ICRC regional mine-awareness advisor for the Caucasus and Central Asia, " Cheerdig is a good example of how a community living in a mine-affected area can use its own language and images to avoid putting itself at risk. " The ICRC plans to hand over its activities to the affected communities in 2004.

The ICRC coordinates its mine-awareness programme in the northern Caucasus with those of UNICEF and the organizations'various implementing partners. It also carrie s out similar programmes – incorporating its experience to date – in other mine-affected areas, such as Nagorny Karabakh and Tajikistan.