April 12 2006
20 years since Chernobyl
26 April 2006 marks the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. For more than ten years, SOS Children's Villages has been supporting affected children and families from the most contaminated areas of the country by providing them with different forms of aid to recover from the effects of the disaster.
(12 April 2006) - "Sick people cannot have healthy children", said Professor Vasily Nesterenko of the Institute of Radiation Safety Belrad in Minsk, Belarus. And the economic and psychological atmosphere in Belarus may cause another flow of orphans. "Ninety per cent of children were healthy in 1985. Now, only 20% are; this is according to the official statistics. I was in the Narovlya district myself and checked 3,800 children - I found no healthy kids," Nesterenko recalled.
Belarus was the country most severely affected by the nuclear reactor disaster at Chernobyl. Twenty-three per cent of its territory is contaminated with caesium-137 at levels higher than 1 Ci/km². At the time of the accident, 2.2 million people lived in this area. At the beginning of 1996, 1.84 million people, including almost 500,000 children, still lived in the contaminated areas. Today, 1.5 million are living there.
In 2005, 480 children were cared for in the SOS Social Centre, which is attached to SOS Children's Village Borovljany; over ten years 2,732 children have been helped at the centre. "We have two main target groups: the first group is children who already have cancer or cancer-related illnesses, who get treatments in the neighbouring Children's Cancer Clinic. They live in our house for up to one year. The second target group is the people who live in the contaminated areas - preferably big families - who stay here for three weeks," explained Lilya Shestakova, director of the SOS Social Centre Borovljany.
Children have the opportunity to spend their time (during their cancer treatments) in a homelike atmosphere in one of four houses at the SOS Social Centre - together with their mothers - instead of staying permanently in the hospital. The SOS Social Centre offers families different kinds of help: financial support for buying healthy food during their stay; social, psychological and health related aid as well as juridical advice with filling in documents to gain support. In addition the SOS Social Centre sends children who are in a "transition period" (from being sick with cancer to leading a healthy life again) either to the SOS summer camp in Caldonazzo, Italy or to a summer camp in Belarus for recovery each year.
The mother of a young patient of the Children's Cancer Clinic, who resides at the SOS Social Centre Borovljany with her son at the moment, described what this facility means for her child and her: "We don't pay rent here and that's a big help, because if we rented a flat in Minsk it would be very expensive for us and we could not afford it. We are very lucky that there is a social centre here."
At present there are two SOS Children's Villages (Borovljany and Marina Gorka) in Belarus. Each has an SOS Social Centre. There is also one SOS Youth Facility in Minsk. The laying of the foundation stone for the third SOS Children's Village in Mogilev will take place at the end of April 2006.
SOS Children's Villages is active in 132 countries and territories. 438 SOS Children's Villages and 346 SOS Youth Facilities provide more than 59,000 children and youths in need with a new home. More than 131,000 children/youths attend SOS Kindergartens, SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools and SOS Vocational Training Centres. Around 397,000 people benefit from the services provided by SOS Medical Centres, 115,000 people from services provided by SOS Social Centres. SOS Children's Villages also helps in situations of crisis and disaster through emergency relief programmes.
For more information on SOS Children's Villages' activities for children and families affected by the Chernobyl disaster, please contact:
SOS-Kinderdorf International Ms Karin Singer-Lusch
Communications Officer, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: +43 512 3310 5286
For more information on the organisation's international work, please contact:
SOS-Kinderdorf InternationalMs Adriana Pontieri
International Press Officer, Email: email@example.com
Tel: +43 1 368 2457 2185