One of the most enduring images of the Ethiopian famine that shocked the world in 1984 was that of the young International Red Cross nurse who, surrounded by thousands of starving people and with limited supplies, had the terrible task of choosing which children to feed, knowing that those she turned away might not last the night. That nurse was Claire Bertschinger, and those pictures inspired Live Aid, the biggest relief programme the world had ever seen. 'In her was vested the power of life and death,' Bob Geldof said. 'She had become God-like, and that is unbearable for anyone.' Michael Buerk, whose BBC documentary first showed those pictures, persuaded Claire to return to Ethiopia almost twenty years later. For all those years she had been haunted by the terrible choices she had been forced to make. But when she met them again, the survivors welcomed her back with open arms.Born in Essex, Claire Bertschinger had to overcome dyslexia to qualify as a nurse. When she joined the International Red Cross, she fulfilled a zest for adventure and a passionate vocation for relief work. She has worked with the war-wounded and hostages in Lebanon, with the Mujahidin in Afghanistan, and with victims of civil war and displaced persons in Uganda, Sierra Leone and the Sudan. Working in war zones she often came under fire herself while trying to save the lives of others.
Memoir by the International Red Cross nurse whose work during the famine in Ethiopia was first brought to the attention of the western world by the BBC's Michael Buerk and which triggered Bob Geldof's Live Aid.
'In her was vested the power of life and death' Bob Geldof
Crossing the front line in a war zone, dealing with gruesome injuries, starvation and disease, are experiences that most people would avoid at all costs.But for Essex-born Claire Bertschinger, who had to overcome her dyslexia to qualify as a nurse, challenges such as these are not only a job, but a way of life.With the International Red Cross, she has worked to save lives in some of the most dangerous places on earth. In Lebanon, she helped refugees escape under fire across the front line; on the Sudanese border she fought a cholera outbreak; in Afghanistan she tended the war wounded and fell in love with a Mujahedin fighter.Her warm, matter-of-fact account gives a vivid picture, not only of the adventure and danger and the wild partying when off-duty, but also of the heavy physical and emotional toll endured.
In 1985, it was the TV news image of Claire as a young nurse on a remote feeding station in Ethiopia, forced to choose which of thousands of starving children to attempt to save, that inspired Live Aid.For twenty years she was haunted by the memory of the terrible choices she had to make there, until she returned, and found she was welcomed back with open arms. But this was only one of the highlights of a life filled with courage, compassion and adventure.
'A beautiful story that needed to be told and, more importantly, needs to be read' Janine di Giovanni, author of Madness Visible