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Superman raises landmine awareness

Superman comic

Monday, 21 October 1996: It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman to the rescue of children threatened by landmines! United States First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton launched Superman: Deadly Legacy at a White House ceremony today featuring the Man of Steel promoting landmine awareness in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"Landmines have inflicted death and enormous pain and suffering on hundreds of thousands of children over the last several decades," says UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "We must do everything in our power to protect them from these deadly weapons."

DC Comics published the comic book in cooperation with the US Department of Defense and UNICEF.

Closer to the ground and smaller, children suffer greater injury and are more likely to be killed by mines than adults. Such devices as the 'butterfly' mine lure children with their attractive, toy-like appearance. In 68 countries, where an estimated 110 million landmines are lodged in the ground, often long after hostilities have ended, children pick up or step on the devices every day while herding animals, working in the fields or just playing.

"I know they look like fun," says Superman as he sweeps up two boys before they can pick up a couple of mines. "But even if they haven't gone off doesn't mean they won't -- at any time!"

And they do, with appalling frequency. About 800 people are killed by landmines every month, 30-40 per cent of them children. "A landmine is a perfect soldier," the UNICEF State of the World's Children 1996 report quotes a Khmer Rouge general as saying. "Ever courageous, never sleeps, never misses."

Once laid, an anti-personnel mine can remain active for as long as 50 years. And clearing them is no easy task. It's a laborious, expensive process, with each mine costing between $300 and $1,000 a day to clear. Trained workers have to crawl their way along, probing the soil inch by inch.

Between four and six million land mines were laid in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia during the recent conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

The White House event also highlighted another project aimed at improving the lives of children and people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A new US Agency for International Development (USAID) hospital partnership will link the Buffalo General Hospital in Buffalo, New York, with the Tuzla Clinical Centre in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the exchange of information on effective medical strategies.

The message of Superman: Deadly Legacy, available in English as well as in the local scripts of Cyrillic and Latin, is simple, yet forceful: Children must learn how to avoid danger zones where anti-personnel mines are hidden -- and they don't need Superman to keep them safe.

"They still can be heroes, even without superpowers," the Man of Steel tells a crowd of adults and children in the last frame of the comic book, as he lifts off for adventures unknown. "The only superpower they need is the power of knowledge."

Please email with comments or requests for more information, quoting CF/DOC/PR/96-27.

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