'Independent' readers give pounds 300,000 to help victims of Bosnia war: The British people do care: Joanna Gibbon tells how 15 charities are using the funds raised in our appeal

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The Independent Online
FIFTEEN charities working with the war-battered population of Bosnia yesterday received cheques representing pounds 300,000 donated by Independent readers - money that is already being spent on all kinds of direct aid.

The actress Emma Thompson, who helped to launch the Independent appeal in December, concluded it last night by presenting the extra 10 per cent which the newspaper pledged to add to donations sent in by readers.

The Independent took up the idea of an appeal to readers after its campaign last summer to keep aid supply routes open. Andreas Whittam Smith, the newspaper's editor, said that the gratifying response from readers 'must finally refute any suggestion that the British people don't care about what's happening in Bosnia'. Ms Thompson said that she had approached the Independent because the issue simply demanded her attention.

The Oxfam Cold Front Appeal has already used the Independent appeal funds to transport winter clothing to Bosnia, and to buy 24,000 pairs of shoes. It has distributed 50,000 jumpers and coats to Tuzla and a further 40,000 to Mostar. 'It is a harsh winter and people's reserves are run down - the clothing will have saved lives and brought a great deal of comfort,' says John Magrath at Oxfam.

Edinburgh Direct Aid is increasing its protective gear for convoy drivers. With six lorries and a Land Rover taking in food and medical supplies to central Bosnia, EDA needs more flak jackets, helmets and radio equipment.

The funds have helped Feed the Children to double the amount of food and medical aid taken into Bosnia in the past few months. 'We have pushed up the number of lorries so that ours have been regular weekly distributions,' says David Grubb, executive director.

Marie Stopes International is using the donation to train local people in counselling techniques so that more women can be helped to overcome their war trauma. Three training courses have been held in Split, Bihac and Herzegovina; there are plans, too, for counselling centres in Mostar and Sarajevo.

Help the Aged includes counselling in its home visit and delivery service to elderly people living on the Bosnian and Croatian border. 'We help people who would otherwise receive nothing. The money means hundreds will receive more help than they would have done,' says James Newsome of Help the Aged.

For other charities, including Cafod, the British Red Cross, United Nations Association's Trust Bosnia and Christian Aid, the money will boost existing projects. In Cafod's case, for example, the Independent appeal will help to send 40 tons of food to Sarajevo.

Huge quantities of food and medical supplies are being provided by the Red Cross, which has been working in former Yugoslavia since July 1991. 'These desperately needed funds will go towards helping victims of this terrible conflict,' says Mike Whitlam, director general of the British Red Cross.

Meanwhile, the UNA's Trust Bosnia has been able to help the United Nations High Commission for Refugees' winter programme of supplying house materials, fuel and stoves. Christian Aid is distributing its donation through the World Council of Churches to provide food, shelter and agricultural supplies.

Care International is using the money to extend its mother-and-baby food parcel distribution scheme in Tuzla and Mostar. 'The need is enormous and the aid is incredibly welcome,' says Sue Davison, the charity's project officer.

For Scottish European Aid, the donation will help to expand engineering projects in Bosnia, including installing a steam generator for Tuzla hospital and two home repair projects. SEA also plans to bring a supply of educational books from Split. 'Without school it is difficult to keep the children's morale up. The money means a hell of a lot to a small charity like ours,' says Rupert Wolfe Murray, SEA's co-director.

Islamic Relief has earmarked the donation for an agricultural project to give self-sufficiency to nearly 20,000 people in Tuzla.

Save the Children will use the money to work with other agencies in reuniting the estimated 50,000 children in Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia and across Europe who have been separated from their parents during the war.

The Refugee Council is using the donation to help Yugoslavian refugees living in Britain. It is training Bosnian people how best to help those traumatised by their war experiences.

Finally, War Child will use the money for a music therapy course for children in Sarajevo.

Road open, page 10; Baroness Chalker, page 16

(Photograph omitted)

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