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UN Chernobyl Report Launched in New York
The effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accidents continue to blight the lives of millions of Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians, and international assistance in dealing with its long-term consequences is still badly needed. This was one of the key points made at the presentation of the UN report entitled "The human consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear accident: a strategy for recovery" launched on 6 February at a press briefing in New York.
As stated at the launch, the Chernobyl explosion contaminated 23 per cent of Belarus, 5 per cent of Ukraine and 1.5 per cent of Russia. At least 8,000 people have died in the three countries, mostly from radiation-related diseases. Some 200,000 continue to live in highly contaminated areas, and 4.5 million are receiving financial help from their governments.
Speaking at the press briefing, the UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Kenzo Oshima said that the job of the international community could not be left half done when there were still outstanding needs. According to Oshima, it was incorrect to assume that, with the closure of the nuclear power plant and generous funding by donors for a new shelter constructed around the destroyed reactor, the international community could now close the file on the people who continued to live in the shadow of Chernobyl. Stating that the nature of Chernobyl-related problems has evolved in 15 years, Kenzo Oshima indicated that a transition was necessary from emergency assistance to an approach that emphasised development and recovery in the affected areas. "The objective of the new strategy" - said Oshima - "is to make sure that resources are directed to those most in need thus encouraging and enabling the majority of the population to progress to a stage of self sufficiency."
Expanding on Kenzo Oshima's statement, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Mark Malloch Brown emphasised that it was time to think about moving beyond the emergency phase to a much more developmental approach. "For us more than anything else, however, is having a sense that one chapter is closing, and a new one is beginning and that it is really time to move on", he said. By continuing to treat the region as an emergency problem "we are failing to send the right signal to the people. "We have to say we can help you solve your own problems. That kind of self- sufficiency approach is the critical next chapter of Chernobyl."
Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), expressed the hope that that the governments of Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian Federation would recognise the need to redirect the very substantial resources that they provided. Bellamy called for a gradual transition from a mainly benefits approach to investments in basic health services, basic economic development and protection of the environment. She said one of the recommendations of the report was that immediate action be taken to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders, and that eliminating iodine deficiency would continue to be a high priority for UNICEF in the three countries.
Assistant Administrator of UNDP and UN Deputy Coordinator for Chernobyl Kalman Miszei noted that the international community had spent more than $1 billion on radiation related issues. "Raising 5 to 10 per cent of that amount for the benefit of the victims would be an effective way of addressing the current problems," said Miszei. "Not only would the Chernobyl-related problems be addressed, but the economic transition could be accelerated." The UN Chernobyl report contains some twenty project ideas which, if supported by the international community, could effectively address a great variety of development needs in the affected territories.
The UN Chernobyl report will be presented to the public in Belarus on 14 February 2002 at 2 p.m. at the National Press Centre (Ul. Oktyabskaya 5).
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