26 April 2004 On the 18th anniversary of the explosion at the Chernobyl power plant, Secretary-General Kofi Annan led United Nations officials today in urging the international community to continue providing aid to the people and region affected by the world's worst nuclear accident.
"For nearly two decades, the people in the affected regions of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine have had to cope with farmlands rendered useless, acute economic difficulties and chronic health problems, especially among children," a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement.
To mitigate the toll on affected communities, the UN is focusing its programmes on laying the foundations for sustainable recovery and development, with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) taking the lead in such efforts.
"The Secretary-General reaffirms the resolve of the United Nations to ensure that the ongoing needs of the people of the region are not forgotten," spokesman Fred Eckhard said. "He urges the international community to provide the moral and financial support necessary to keep the affected communities from suffering the effects of this tragedy for decades to come."
Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, echoed that thought, saying the international community must renew its efforts to help the people of the affected regions take control of their lives again.
"The aftermath of the Chernobyl accident is simply too much for people in the contaminated areas to cope with alone. We simply cannot turn our backs. We can and must do more to help bring development and hope to the affected people," said Mr. Egeland, who is also the UN's Coordinator of International Cooperation on Chernobyl.
Nearly 8.4 million people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia were exposed to radiation when the nuclear plant blew up. Some 150,000 kilometres - an area half the size of Italy - were contaminated, while agricultural areas covering nearly 52,000 square kilometres - more than the size of Denmark - were ruined.