6 February 2002
Report says Chernobyl disaster still hurting millions
Agencies Call For New International Effort to Restore Normalcy
NEW YORK, 6
February -- The United Nations called today for an entirely new
approach to helping millions of people impacted by the Chernobyl
nuclear accident, saying that 16 years after the incident those
affected remain in a state of "chronic dependency," with
few opportunities and little control over their destinies. The United
Nations warned that populations in Belarus, the Russian Federation
and Ukraine would continue to experience general decline unless
significant new measures are adopted to address health, the environment
are contained in a comprehensive study of the countries and populations
affected by the Chernobyl disaster, released today by the United
Nations at a press conference in New York. The study, carried out
by an international panel of experts in July-August 2001, was commissioned
by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United
Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and was supported by the World
Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
At the centre
of the report's findings lies the conclusion that a fundamental
shift is needed in the way assistance is delivered to the people
still suffering from the Chernobyl disaster, emphasizing long-term
community redevelopment and empowerment in which the affected populations
play a key role. The "Emergency Phase" of the response
emphasizing containment, relocation, and direct welfare is now over,
argues the report, and a new 10-year "Recovery Phase"
must gradually replace it. The report calls for a series of national
workshops in the three countries most affected -- Belarus, the Russian
Federation and Ukraine -- to gain consensus around new approaches
emphasizing basic health services, economic development, creative
ecological measures, and focused international research on a series
of unresolved health questions.
other measures, the report proposes:
should be concentrated on mainstream services which have the greatest
effect on life expectancy and general well-being, including primary
health care, health education, clean water and economic development.
health reform in the three countries, ensuring that services are
delivered on the basis of medical need and that poor rural communities
get improved care. Reformed medical services should also address
the effects of social and environmental factors on health, including
poverty, poor diet, alcoholism, tobacco abuse and poor living
-- A long-term,
independent, properly funded and internationally recognized programme
of research on the lasting environmental and health effects of
attention to the lifetime needs of people who were infants or
children at the time of the accident, lived in the areas affected
by the fallout of radioactive iodine and may have contracted or
be at risk of thyroid cancer, which has emerged as a primary threat.
to research showing that the psycho-social welfare of people who
stayed in their homes is better than that of those who were relocated,
along with new studies examining how far the present regime of
residency restrictions could responsibly be relaxed to enable
a growing number of people wishing to return to make informed
decisions about the risk.
economic measures aimed at expanding self-sufficiency among those
most affected, along with ongoing but more focused direct support
until such self-sufficiency is achieved. National policies that
bring about an investment-friendly business environment, including
village-level enterprise zones, and business development incentives
in towns and cities adjacent to the most affected areas. Special
emphasis must be put on the local agricultural economy.
of environmental policy planning, implementation and management
at the local, national and transnational levels to build on lessons
learned and develop innovative approaches to land use as the radiation
threat diminishes over time. Ongoing and focused research on the
impact of radioactive contamination on the environment, including
in the water, with special attention to the impact on hunters, forestry
workers, and others who rely on the land for their incomes.
recognizes the lead role that has been played by the respective
governments involved, and notes the enormous investment of resources
that they have made into the humanitarian relief effort over the
last 15 years. But it also calls on international donors and governments
to continue to play an active supporting role.
emphasizes the need for the next phase to focus attention on two
affected groups: First, the 100,000 to 200,000 people who live in
severely contaminated areas, unemployed re-settlers, and those whose
health is most directly threatened, including victims of thyroid
cancer. Some 2,000 persons have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer,
and as many as 8,000 to 10,000 cases are expected to develop it
over the coming years. The report states that this group is at the
core of the cluster of problems created by Chernobyl, and focusing
on their needs and helping them take control of their destinies
must be a priority.
report finds that there are hundreds of thousands of people whose
lives have been directly and significantly affected but who are
already in a position to support themselves. This group has found
employment, and needs as a priority to be reintegrated into the
society as a whole, so that their needs are addressed through mainstream
provisions and criteria.
The three affected
countries and the international community need to join forces in
moving towards a new phase of recovery and sustainable development.
The aim should be to "work toward normalizing the situation
of the individuals and communities concerned in the medium and long
term." This depends on a holistic approach to addressing the
medical, environmental and economic problems faced by the affected
people and enabling them to take more control over their futures.
the report, such a transition is long overdue and is not a "second
best" solution. "Within the available budgets it is really
the only alternative to the progressive breakdown of the recovery
effort, continuing haemorrhaging of scarce resources, and continuing
distress for the people at the centre of the problem."
information, please contact David A. Chikvaidze (OCHA) at 212-963-9665;
Erin Trowbridge (UNDP) at 212-906-5344; Alfred Ironside (UNICEF)