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EDITIONS
Saturday, 18 January, 2003, 11:36 GMT
Volunteering plummets amid war fears
Germaine Arnold, community nurse (VSO/Jon Spaull)
Fewer people are volunteering since 11 September
Fewer people have been volunteering to work in developing countries amid global insecurity since 11 September, the charity VSO has said.

It said it urgently needs 800 professional volunteers such as teachers, social workers, fundraisers and midwives to help some of the world's poorest communities.

Since 11 September, the number of volunteers recruited by the charity from the UK has dropped by 40% - the biggest fall in its 45-year history, VSO's chief executive said.

It is struggling to recruit the skilled professionals it needs to help developing countries.

If the downward trend continues, up to a third of VSO's placements will remain unfilled in the coming year.

This would make people in developing countries the real victims of international terrorism, the charity warned.

VOLUNTEER WARNINGS
VSO has seen a 40% drop in volunteers since 11 September
There is a severe shortage of teachers, social workers and health professionals
A third of VSO's placements could be unfilled next year
Chief executive Mark Goldring said: "It's not surprising we are focusing on our own safety and security in the current climate, but our attention is being diverted from the world's poorest.

"What we need is a war on poverty, and this is a war we have to win.

"Poor education and healthcare - not to mention the impact of HIV and Aids - are the real battles we should be fighting if we want to ensure global security."

Research commissioned by the charity said 63% of UK professionals admitted the international situation was having an effect on their travel or holiday plans.

Yet a survey suggested over 90% of VSO volunteers in the field felt as safe or safer than they do in the UK.

I feel safer walking around Dar es Salaam than walking around Brighton or London

Andrew Vickery, 36, VSO finance advisor
'We want to reassure people contacting us at the moment," Mr Goldring said.

"Volunteers live and work in communities, where they are valued and respected by friends and colleagues.

"These communities need our help and the feedback from volunteers is that they feel as safe or safer than they do at home."

VSO volunteer Andrew Vickery, 36, a finance advisor in Tanzania, said, "On a day-to-day basis I feel safer walking around Dar es Salaam than walking around Brighton or London."

Peace Brigades International agreed that volunteer numbers had dropped off since 11 September, especially amongst its volunteers from the US.

However, not all charities had experienced such plummeting numbers.

Raleigh International said the number of people applying for its expeditions were "practically identical" before and since 11 September.

However, it stressed it only went to six countries that it considered safe - Chile, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Borneo, Ghana and Namibia.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Karen Allen
"Fears about global security have led to a 40% drop in recruits"
Mark Goldring, Voluntary Service Overseas
"If there is a real risk we pull volunteers out"
See also:

05 Aug 02 | Education
20 Apr 02 | Africa
14 Nov 01 | Business
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