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Azerbaijan: New play areas protect children from landmines

08-10-2007 News Release 07/30

Geneva (ICRC) – The Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society is today opening safe-play areas for children in two villages in the Gazakh district, along Azerbaijan's western border with Armenia.

In Azerbaijan, large numbers of landmines and other explosive remnants of the Nagorny-Karabakh conflict continue to prevent many residents from returning to a normal way of life. This is especially true for the children, whose natural curiosity and desire to play can have deadly consequences if they encounter a mine.

The playgrounds in the Gazakh district are part of an ongoing project that started in 2005, with financial assistance from the Norwegian Red Cross and practical support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Since the beginning of 2007, the ICRC has been providing the Red Crescent with both financial and other support for the project.

Thanks to the Red Crescent initiative, 12-year-old Saida Guliyeva, for example, can now enjoy playing on the newly installed swings after school. “We used to run around the fields and make up all sorts of games, " she says. " But our parents were afraid of letting us go out there. " Children have been closely involved in designing the playgrounds and in devising safety tips for young people living in conflict-affected areas.

Over the past two years, 25 safe-play areas have been set up. Another 10 will open this month. The project is just one of many carried out by the ICRC and National Societies around the world to reduce the impact of mines and other explosive remnants of war through practical measures in contaminated areas.

" The safe-play areas give children the choice to make use of their free time without being exposed to danger, " says Herbi Elmazi, ICRC mine-action adviser for the Commonwealth of Independent States. " Having a safe pla ce for children to play – to simply enjoy being children – is a dream for every family living in an area affected by mines. "

  For further information, please contact:
  Gulnaz Guliyeva, ICRC Baku, tel. +994 12 465 63 34 or +994 12 465 64 52