The six million who need your help

The Independent today launches the Children of War Appeal, a special plea to help the child victims of the war ravaged countries of the former Yugoslavia this Christmas.

Peace may at last be close for the Balkans but the damage of four years of conflict remains. None of the region's 24 million people have been left untouched and its 6 million children face a lifetime suffering from the traumas of war.

For these children the main struggle will be psychological - coping with the loss of parents, siblings and family. But there is a need for medical aid, food, shelter. There are also thousands struggling to be reunited with their families.

Livelihoods have evaporated and homes razed. In 1995 alone 500,000 were made homeless.Unicef describes the registration of displaced children in Bosnia as being in disarray. Some have spent up to four years living in camps or with host families and relatives scattered from Austria to Australia.

"The children of former Yugoslavia have suffered terribly. The scars will take a long time to heal," Lord Owen, the former European Union mediator, said. For children the situation is frightening. They are the generation who will rebuild Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia. The future is theirs - but it is blighted by poor nutrition, lack of housing, racial hatred and the loss of years of education.

The Independent is asking its readers to support these children and the aid agencies working to help them. Four agencies have been chosen: the International Red Cross, Save The Children, War Child and Child Advocacy International. All four will go on working long after the last bullet has been fired.

Over the weeks up to Christmas we will be detailing the projects we would like you to support, starting on Monday with an account of the work being undertaken by the Red Cross in Sarajevo, supplying 46,000 schoolchildren aged seven to 14 with hot soup and a sandwich each day this winter.

Children of War, page 13

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