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New Mine Awareness Comic Book Released

By Maj. Donna Miles, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 15, 1998 – It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a new comic book starring Superman and Wonder Woman designed to teach children in Central America about land mines.

The book, "Al Asesino Escondido" ("The Hidden Killer"), was introduced June 11 at UNICEF House at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Brian Sheridan, principal deputy to the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict, represented the Defense Department at the unveiling ceremony. He called the book a major step forward in the effort to protect children in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras from the threat posed by land mines.

The book is designed to teach children to stay away from mines and unexploded ordnance, to recognize areas where mines may be located and to take certain action if they find a mine. It also encourages children to share their understanding of the land mine threat with friends and family members, and teaches them that people removing mines in their country are working to protect them from the dangers of land mines.

Six hundred fifty thousand copies of the book -- 560,000 in Spanish and 90,000 in English -- were published in the second partnership of DoD, UNICEF and DC Comics, a division of the Time Warner Entertainment Co.

A similar comic book was published in English and Eastern European languages to promote mine awareness in Bosnia-Herzegovina. First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced it in 1996 at the White House.

"From the Bosnia experience, we know that comic books are a successful tool to educate children about the dangers of mines in their areas," said Deborah Rosenblum, director of DoD's Office of Humanitarian Assistance and Anti-personnel Land Mine Policy.

The Central American book is 32 pages long, compared to 10 pages for the Bosnia version. The new book includes 24 pages of story and eight pages of activities targeting children between 8 and 15. To further increase the new book's appeal, Rosenblum said it features Wonder Woman as well as Superman.

Soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., conducted assessments in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras, provided background information and photos and recommended a story line to the creative staff at DC Comics. The collaboration, Rosenblum said, ensured accuracy and that Central American children would be able to identify with the villages, countryside and clothing depicted in the new book. Once the story and artwork were completed, the battalion tested the comic book in Central America to see if it conveyed the intended message.

Members of the Army's Special Forces, as well as the staffs of UNICEF, U.S. embassies and local governments, will work together to distribute the book throughout the region. Mine-awareness posters based on the comic book -- 170,000 in Spanish and 30,000 in English -- will be distributed in Latin America; similar posters were used in Bosnia campaign.

Rosenblum said a third version of the comic book is already being considered, to be published in Portuguese for the children of Angola -- which the United Nations estimates has 15 million land mines, more than any other country.

Sheridan called the comic books an example of successful public-private partnerships in promoting mine awareness. Another partnership between DoD and James Madison University established a clearinghouse and web site, at http://www.demining.brtrc.com, devoted to information to support humanitarian demining.

A partnership with Essex, now the Star Mountain Corp., resulted in "MineFacts," a worldwide mine database used by demining trainers as well as national demining program offices and nongovernmental organizations that routinely risk encountering land mines. Star Mountain and JMU also developed a demining support system to improve DoD's ability to provide training in demining, mine awareness and emergency medical procedures.

These partnerships are a key element of President Clinton's initiative to eliminate civilian land mine casualties by the year 2010.

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