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Ukraine is a country in East Europe with a territory of 603,700 sq km and population of 45.5 million. The Chernobyl accident in 1986 affected more than 3.5 million people, including 1.5 million children, and contaminated nearly 50,000 square kilometers of lands in northern Ukraine. The accident rendered areas unsafe for many types of food production. Organizations within and outside the UN system immediately sought ways to provide emergency assistance to the country after the accident and numerous projects have been implemented since then. However, despite assistance of the international community to Ukraine, the country is still suffering from the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster today.

Since 1986, United Nations system organizations, leading non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and foundations have implemented 86 projects totaling $30.5 million in Ukraine. (This information does not include Chernobyl projects implemented by the European Community and UNESCO and billions of dollars of international projects associated with closing the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and building the Chernobyl Shelter).

UN system organizations have partnered with NGOs and foundations since 1988. Collaborative efforts centered around health and socio-psychological issues. UN organizations have implemented health projects totaling more than $8 million, and NGO’s have funded another $16.4 million in projects in Ukraine. The number of people designated as permanently disabled by the Chernobyl accident increased from 200 in 1991 to 64,500 in 1997 and 91,219 in 2001. At the same time, medical examinations in Ukraine, based on results from the Chernobyl Sasakawa Health and Medical Cooperation Project in the period 1986-1996, showed increased development of immunodeficiency in the population, which medical scientists associated with the Chernobyl disaster. Examinations showed that a number of cases of cancer increased by 19.5 times, thyroid by 54 times, goiters by 44 times, hypothyroidism by 5.7 times, and nodal formation by 55 times.

Projects aimed at environmental rehabilitation, and de-contaminating agricultural areas accounted for another $4 million. In 1997 the contamination levels in 487 towns and villages, which produced large amounts of agricultural output, exceeded acceptable levels by two and five times. UN system organizations invested in the use of Caesium Binders to reduce Caesium-137 found in the soil. Other tactics were used in order to rehabilitate agriculture, and diminish the amount of radionuclides found in agricultural areas. Nuclear safety projects exceeded $1.7 million. Economic rehabilitation projects amounted only to near $167,361 and obviously were the ones of less priority at that period.

Today, after 17 years of dedicated work of the UN organizations and leading NGOs and Foundations it is clear that the devastating effects of Chernobyl are causing millions of people in Ukraine to suffer from the second contamination through foods and environment. The main reason for this is that financial contributions for the Chernobyl projects represent only a small amount needed for the complete recovery operations. Ukrainian experts estimated the economic damage to their country at USD 201 billion up to 2015. By comparison, the national income of Ukraine was about USD 37 billion in 2001. In 1992, Ukraine spent about 15 per cent of its national budget on managing the effects of the disaster.

The United Nations recently announced a new focus on sustainable development for the countries affected by Chernobyl. The hope is that new approaches to development in the three countries affected by Chernobyl can empower individuals and communities, and mobilize additional resources for recovery.



Copyright © 2004 UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs