CHERNOBYL: NEEDS REMAIN GREAT 18 YEARS AFTER NUCLEAR ACCIDENT

26 April 2004
IHA/896

CHERNOBYL: NEEDS REMAIN GREAT 18 YEARS AFTER NUCLEAR ACCIDENT

26/04/2004
Press ReleaseIHA/896

CHERNOBYL:  NEEDS Remain GREAT 18 YEARS AFTER NUCLEAR ACCIDENT

NEW YORK, 26 April (OCHA) -- On the eighteenth anniversary of the accident at the Chernobyl power plant, Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, is urging the international community not to turn its back on the people still affected by the world’s worst nuclear accident.

“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 of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine 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 United Nations Coordinator of International Cooperation on Chernobyl.

Eighteen years ago today, nearly 8.4 million people in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia were exposed to radiation.  Some 150,000 kilometres, an area half the size of Italy, were contaminated.  Agricultural areas covering nearly 52,000 sq. km, which is more than the size of Denmark, were ruined.  Nearly 400,000 people were resettled but millions continued to live in an environment where continued residual exposure created a range of adverse effects.

Now, roughly 6 million people live in affected areas.  Economies in the region have stagnated, with the three countries directly affected spending billions of dollars to cope with the lingering effects of the Chernobyl disaster.  Chronic health problems, especially among children, are rampant.  In some areas of Belarus, for example, national reports indicate that incidents of thyroid cancer in children have increased more than a hundred-fold when compared with the period before the accident.

To help mitigate the long-term effects of the tragedy, the United Nations is emphasizing long-term community redevelopment and empowerment in which the affected populations play a key role.  To this end, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), is handing over responsibility for the Chernobyl portfolio to the United Nations agency whose mandate is best suited for these endeavours, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

For further information, please contact:  Stephanie Bunker, OCHA New York, tel.: 917 367 5126, mobile: 917 892 1679; or Elizabeth Byrs, OCHA Geneva, tel.: 41 22 917 2653, mobile: 41 (0) 79 473 4570.

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For information media. Not an official record.