As the massive arch is painstakingly moved into place over the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station this week, the people living in the contaminated region continue to suffer the consequences of the 1986 disaster.
It has taken four years and almost 2 billion euros to create the 'Safe Confinement' over the stricken reactor and it is expected to last 100 years.
But the effects of the disaster could be felt for many generations.
In Belarus, the country which received the heaviest fall-out, thyroid cancer was the first illness to appear after the accident and is still the only consequence universally acknowledged to be caused by the radiation.
But other health effects have been widespread, including other cancers, heart disease, blood disorders, immune deficiency and diabetes.
In recent years those who were babies or very young children at the time of the accident have been having children of their own. In many cases their babies are born with genetic defects. For some, babies who appear to be healthy at birth are soon afterwards diagnosed with cancer or leukaemia.
However, it is very difficult to get hold of statistics on these and many other health problems. Not only does the government of Belarus prefer to give the impression that all is well, but the attachment to nuclear power by some of the world’s most powerful governments has resulted in little enthusiasm for researching or publicising the ongoing effects of the accident. And supporters of nuclear power have redoubled their efforts to show that the only real health consequences have been psychological, contemptuously referred to as ‘radiophobia’.
Chernobyl Children’s Project has worked in Belarus for over 20 years. We bring children in remission from cancer to the UK for recuperative holidays; provide palliative care for families in their homes; have set up family type homes for children and young people with disabilities; and have initiated many projects to support children with disabilities and help to change the attitude to disability in Belarus.
Click here to find out more about our work.
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