Page last updated at 00:10 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009

'Live Aid' nurse Claire Bertschinger to become a dame

Claire Bertschinger
Dame Claire had little idea of the impact she would have on TV viewers

A nurse credited with inspiring the 1985 Live Aid concerts to fight famine in Ethiopia is to be made a dame.

Claire Bertschinger's appearance in former BBC reporter Michael Buerk's famous footage in 1984 prompted rock star Bob Geldof to begin fundraising.

The nurse, from Sheering, Essex, had to decide daily which children could be fed and which were too ill to be saved.

Dame Claire said she was "startled but very moved" by the honour, for nursing and international humanitarian aid.

"I couldn't believe it when I saw the letter - I thought it was from the taxman," she said.

She received the official letter just before a recent return visit to Ethiopia, where she met survivors of the famine including Birhan Woldu.

As a malnourished young child, her image symbolised the disaster. Now she is a qualified nurse.


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Dame Claire said she had no idea of the impact the broadcasts would have when she was featured working as an International Red Cross nurse in Ethiopia in 1984.

When asked on film about the effect on her of having to choose which children would die, she answered: "What do you expect? It breaks my heart."

She recalls thinking the questions were "idiotic" but says she recognises now that they had the desired effect.

At the time, Geldof described her situation as "unbearable".

Dame Claire has since worked in war zones including Lebanon, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan and now teaches tropical nursing at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

She hoped the honour would raise awareness of the importance of educating women in the developing world.

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