Newsworthy

By Christine Peringer, Saul Chernos, John Bacher, Karen Ridd

h3. Five Days of Peace BY CHRISTINE PERINGER OTTAWA- A photograph on my desk shows two "enemies," a Salvadorean resistance fighter and a Salvadorean government worker, vaccinating a child. They have stopped their decade-long war for a day to vaccinate children. The child will now be protected from the six main childhood killer diseases (tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, and polio). This is fact, not a fantasy. Annually since 1985, such immunization cease-fires have occurred in El Salvador. Similar but isolated cases have occurred in Colombia, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, and Sudan. If combatants can agree to stop fighting, even temporarily, for the health of their children, nonviolent management of their conflict may be possible. A committee has been formed in Ottawa to popularize this concept around the world. The Canadian Committee for Five Days of Peace has as its goal the achievement of five-day cease-fires in war zones to immunize children. In 1974, the World Health Organization set 1990 as the target year to achieve the immunization of every child on the globe. It was an ambitious project, as in that year fewer than five percent of children in the developing world were immunized. Billions of dollars have been spent toward this goal - more than $50 million from Canada alone. It is working: over 60 percent of the world's children have been immunized against six main childhood killer diseases. One obstacle to immunization is war, which blocks health workers' access to children. While immunization levels in many developing countries approach 75 percent, in war zones rates can drop below 15 percent. In the province of Tigray in Ethiopia, for instance, no immunization of any kind had occurred from 1974 to 1988. Christine Brown, an Australian registered nurse, spent five months in the area last year working with local health workers on a pilot inoculation project. Touring Canada recently, Brown described the obstacles to performing her mission. In addition to impassable roads, lack of communication, and no electricity, the project was hindered because normal mass immunizations could not be done during the day. To avoid being sighted and strafed by government fighter aircraft, children were inoculated during the night. The awkwardness of this situation reduced the attendance, so that many children were missed. Documentation could not be compiled because the town was bombed on the last day. Health care workers were needed to treat casualties instead of completing immunization records. Most health and development agencies see war as a factor they cannot do much about. This is where Five Day of Peace comes in. It challenges the idea that war is inevitable. It examines existing conflicts to determine where this kind of approach could work. Cease-fires will be negotiated by parties trusted by both combatants. The immunization must be done by organizations already in the field. Local health departments, UNICEF, World Health Organization, and the Red Cross can all play a role. To build public awareness, the committee (which is sponsored by several major peace groups) is working to have Canadian non-governmental organizations of all kinds promote this initiative through their international networks. Call us. _Christine Peringer is coordinator, Canadian Commit-tee for Five Days of Peace, 1 70A Booth Street, Ottawa K1R 7J4. (613)233-8621._ h3. Walk for World Survival BY SAUL CHERNOS ORILLIA, ONT.— With little fanfare, marchers for World Survival sauntered into town in early May, to stop at a Quaker farmhouse on the outskirts. They appeared content simply to talk to people along the way and enjoy the occasional potluck supper. After a night's sleep, they rose at dawn, bandaged their blistered feet, and resumed their pilgrimage. Their reason for walking thousands of miles? To stop uranium mining. Nicole Petrin, from Greenfield, Massachusetts, explained that uranium is unsafe to mine and takes millions of years to decay. Forgotten radioactive uranium tailings contaminate mining areas. Many areas polluted by uranium are home to native peoples. Perrin pointed out that more than 85 percent of Canada's 11,000 tons of uranium mined each year is exported, making Canada the world's leading producer and exporter of uranium. Months after setting out from Nova Scotia, Vancouver, South Dakota, and Lac La Ronge in northern Saskatchewan, Walk for World Survival '89 marchers plan to converge August 26 on Saskatoon, corporate home of a number of uranium companies. "It is a powerful way to pray, to walk across the land, to talk to people about what is going on on our planet," said Petrin. _Saul Chernos is an associate editor with_ PEACE. h3. Latvian Environmentalists Challenge Both Blocs BY JOHN BACHER TORONTO -Arvids Ulme, President of Latvian Environmental Protection Club (YAK), discovered a secret uranium refinery in his Soviet Republic's capital city of Riga while on a trip to Canada. In a May 15 meeting between members of ACT for Disarmament and the Canadian Chapter of YAK, Ulme was astonished to hear of the existence of this facility which he guessed was probably located in a restricted zone for military factories on the outskirts of Riga. The Riga refinery was the topic of a PEACE Magazine article (October/November, 1987) by Robert Norman. The plant receives ore shipped from Canada for enrichment on its way to power reactors in West Germany and Finland. Norman contends that the "few hundred million dollars worth of uranium" involved in these exports are "crucial to the economy of scale and viability of the Soviet uranium refinery, which enables Soviet military weapons to be produced." Although YAK has known little about Latvia's role in the nuclear fuel cycle, it has waged a number of impressive campaigns. It has called for the Baltic Sea basin and all of Northern Europe to become a nuclear-free and chemical weapon free zone, under which all components of the nuclear fuel cycle would be phased out. Also endorsed by the Latvian Popular Front, this proclamation calls for the development of "nonpolluting technological energy sources" and the reduction of defence forces to levels maintained by one per cent of the local populations of the proposed demilitarized zone. YAK also organized a rally of over 100,000 people to protest the pollution of the Baltic coast. Riga is the largest polluter of the Baltic sea, where this city dumps its untreated sewage and industrial wastes. Beaches closed by pollution have drawn protesters in place of the banished bathers. Drawing the parallels between environmental degradation in East and West, YAK has noted the situation in the Baltic port of Ventspils. This is the site of a chemical complex designed by Western corporations, including Occidental Petroleum, associated with the infamous Love Canal dump in Niagara Falls. Here there is a high incidence of child illness, birth defects (including Downs Syndrome), infant mortality, chronic lung illness, and skin irritations. YAK warns that Ventspils may be a chemical Chernobyl in case of an accident. h3. Clowning Around in El Salvador BY KAREN RIDD, of Peace Brigades International SAN SALVADOR—For the North American members of our team, staying in El Salvador means continually having to get our short-term visas extended. Often we work with only 15 or 30 days visas. Getting them extended gets us tangled up with lawyers. border officials. and the bureaucrats at Migration. As a newcomer to the team. I kept hearing horror stories about visits to _Migración_. So. prior to my recent visit there, I spent hours preparing: arranging papers, translating documents, copying and typing papers, considering how to discreetly explain myself...and organizing my props. When I arrived at _Migración_ I was nervous — and justifiably so. First visits are often routine, but mine quickly seemed headed for disaster. The officials immediately zeroed in on the Nicaragua stamps in my passport. They ignored my explanation that I had spent six months last year traveling throughout Central America. They called me a communist, demanded to know where I now live. I answered vaguely that I was "with friends in Colonia Refugio." This they pounced on, shouting that the people there were "subversive." They interrogated me about the activities of my friends. I was now surrounded by six angry men, who began searching my bag. They scrutinized my books and, trying to read an untranslated letter from my church back home, discovered those ominous words: "human rights." By now I was worried about ever getting away. IT WAS TIME TO OVERHAUL my image, so I declared. "I'm a clown!" (I am in fact a professional clown.) The men reacted with taunts. I pulled out photos of "Robo," my clown self, which I had deliberately left in the album amidst other photos of my family. I said, "Sirs, I know I don't look like a clown, but I can prove it;l." As I began inflating a special modelling balloon, I could feel the tension in the room subside. The shouts died away. By the time the balloon was twirled into a dog, the atmosphere had totally changed. Suddenly it was like a children's party. The officials started calling for bunnies and birdies, and busied themselves drawing faces on their balloons. Mr. You-Are-A-Communist came running to show me the cardboard spectacles he'd made for his orange rabbit. I was stunned. The turn around had been so rapid! Not only were we all now partying. but the officials were admiring my pictures, advising me as to the best places to buy balloons in San Salvador, and worrying about my health. h3. Ambassador Roche Resigns FIVE YEARS as Canada's Ambassador for Disarmament, Douglas Roche submitted his resignation on June 1. He has expressed willingness to continue on the job, probably through the summer, to smoothen the transition for his successor, who hasn't yet been named. Mr. Roche's career in world affairs spans 40 years. Beginning as a journalist, he was elected to parliament as a Progressive Conservative, representing an Alberta constituency. His was among the strongest voices for disarmament within the Conservative party during the Trudeau years. Roche was a founder and President of Parliamentarians for World Order, which has since become known as Parliamentarians Global Action. He published many articles and books, often focusing on the United Nations, an organization where he was to work tirelessly during the most influential and memorable period of his life. Roche was appointed Disarmament Ambassador in 1984. During the following years he divided his time between New York, Ottawa, and occasionally Geneva, where the Conference on Disarmament (C.D.) meets. In 1988 he was elected Chairman of the First Committee (Disarmament Committee) of the General Assembly, and his leadership won wide respect. This fall he will teach at the University of Alberta. Grateful Canadian peace activists wish him every success in that new career.
Peace Magazine Aug-Sep 1989

Peace Magazine Aug-Sep 1989, page 25. Some rights reserved.

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