With dozens of artists and writers, four Nobel prize winners have joined forces to demand that access to books be made a priority for disaster relief, once victims' basic needs have been met.
While food, shelter and health will always come first, the petition spearheaded by Libraries Without Borders (LWB) argues that "more attention should be given to nourishing the mind as a second measure to help victims cope with catastrophe and move forward."
Advertisement"Books, writing, and learning should not be denied to victims of humanitarian disasters," read the text sent to AFP.
Signatories include Nobel Literature Prize winners Toni Morrison, JM Coetzee and Doris Lessing as well as the South African former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Frederik Willem de Klerk.
Based on its work after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, LWB said it found that access to books and information improved outcomes for the displaced.
"Books and expression help sustain intellectual stimulation and promote self-worth and resilience amid crisis".
"Whether through books, computers, legal assistance or training, access to information and cultural resources empowers individuals and gives them the tools to reconstruct what has been lost," said the text.
LWB called on international organisations to expand reading, cultural and educational programmes and make the provision of access to information and books a priority for international humanitarian relief.
Other backers of the petition include the US writers Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, Junot Diaz and David Eggers, Princeton academic Anne-Marie Slaughter, Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf, the French actor Jean Reno and novelist Amelie Nothomb and Cannes film festival chief Thierry Fremaux.
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