|© UNICEF Ethiopia/ 2007/Sarah Epstein|
|Land mine-affected young people Tesfu (left) and Luam (right) join Ewan and Charley to discuss unexploded ordnance.|
By Amy Bennett
NEW YORK, USA, 24 July 2007 – Riding a motorcycle from Northern Scotland all the way to South Africa may not be the most expedient form of travel. But for Goodwill Ambassador Ewan McGregor and UNICEF supporter Charley Boorman, it is the trip of a lifetime – an adventure which is helping to raise funds and awareness for children.
In 2004, the two friends and fellow actors took their first groundbreaking motorcycle journey called Long Way Round which helped bring attention to the humanitarian efforts of UNICEF in the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Inspired by what they saw, they were both motivated to become long-term supporters of UNICEF.
Now their second trip, Long Way Down, is taking them through Ethiopia, Uganda and Malawi where they are meeting children affected by conflict and HIV/AIDS.
The journey is being catalogued as a documentary as well as a book, DVD, CD and interactive website. The documentary is being produced and directed by Russ Malkin and David Alexanian, who also produced ‘Missing Face’ a film in which Ewan and Charley report from Southern Africa on how children’s lives are affected by HIV/AIDS.
‘An essential life-saving intervention’
The Long Way Down team recently visited the Tigray region in Northern Ethiopia, which was heavily mined during the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea from 1998 - 2000. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced during the two year conflict around Tigray and returned to find their homes, land and schools were heavily mined. Ewan and Charley met with mine-affected children and talked with UNICEF staff about current programmes.
“Educating children about landmines is so vital for children’s futures,” said Mr. McGregor. “With landmines and unexploded ordnance lying in homes, fields, rivers and schools in Ethiopia and other countries, I can really see how UNICEF’s Mine Risk Education is an essential life-saving intervention.”
Successful programmes for vulnerable children
Since 2000, UNICEF has actively reduced landmine incidents in Tigray through a successful Mine Risk Education programme. Curious children in this area are particularly vulnerable to landmine accidents when they go out to search for wood, play or pick cactus fruits.
The Mine Risk Education programme in Tigray has reached over 200,000 youths through school clubs, educational performances and counselling. Children learn what mines look like, what to do if they find themselves in a mine field and how to react if someone else is hurt.
UNICEF is also supporting a programme for disabled children who have lost limbs to mines and hopes to provide mobility tricycles for 3,000 children in order to enable them to reintegrate into society.
Although 80 per cent of the landmines have now been cleared in Tigray, Mine Risk Education remains a life-saving intervention in case children wander into unsafe areas.
Follow the ‘Long Way Down’
As a charity partner of Long Way Down, UNICEF is helping to raise money for children affected by conflict, poverty and HIV across Africa.
The Long Way Down television series will air on the BBC during the Autumn/Winter season of 2007. It will air around the world at a later date. To get updates on Ewan and Charley’s trip visit www.longwaydown.com. To find out more about how Long Way Down and UNICEF work together, visit www.unicef.org.uk/longwaydown.
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