Chernobyl Children International founder Adi Roche is set to make history at the United Nations later this month.
She will become the first representative of an NGO to be granted the honour of speaking of the UN General Assembly during a country’s allocated time when she makes her address on behalf of Belarus.
Roche, the voluntary CEO of the charity, will be speaking at a special session of the UN General Assembly on Chernobyl in New York on April 26, convened to mark the 30th anniversary of the nuclear accident.
The Belarusian government made the unprecedented move recognition of the international role Ireland and the Chernobyl Children International charity has played in helping the victims of the catastrophe.
Ms Roche described the invitation as "the greatest possible honour to speak on the highest world stage about an issue that has been my life’s work”.
She is set to give her own first-hand account of the impact the world’s worst nuclear accident has had on millions of people in Belarus and neighbouring countries.
Chernobyl Children International is the only UN-recognised NGO working in the area.
She will draw particular attention to the heroism, the plight and the continuing needs of the 700,000 Chernobyl “Liquidators”.
These were the soldiers and civilians; the helicopter pilots, the firemen; the miners and the engineers - who were sent to Chernobyl to undertake the deadly task of trying to contain the leaking radiation from the crippled nuclear reactor.
Many died; others have had to live with radiation induced lifelong illnesses and almost all struggle with medical, psychological and financial difficulties.
During the General Assembly session, she will make a special appeal for additional global support to help meet their ongoing health care needs.
Ms Roche will also press for the speedy completion of the $1.5bn sarcophagus that is being built to make Chernobyl safe for the next 100 years.
Ireland has contributed €8m to this fund. Forty countries and international agencies are funding this massive project, which has been delayed many times.
“On this the 30th anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in history, it is a chilling reminder that the effects of this catastrophic nuclear accident are far from over. The radioactive contamination is still having an adverse effect on the lives and health of the people of the Chernobyl regions. For many people 30 years ago is like reading ancient history, however for the victims it remains an unfolding tragedy,” Adi Roche said.
New research released shows that far from the Chernobyl crisis being over the rate of thyroid cancer has almost doubled since 2000 among Children of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe 30 years after the disaster, according to researchers in the Ukraine.
"Children exposed to radiation in 1986 still have a high risk of cancer and need continued observation," said Dr Sergiy Cherenko, MD, of the Ukrainian Scientific and Practical Centre of Endocrine Surgery in Kyiv.
"Children were most at risk at the time of the disaster as they absorb 5-6 times more radioactivity than adults due to their smaller weight, height and more active metabolisms.”
Adi Roche added: “Chernobyl is not something from the past; Chernobyl ‘was forever’, Chernobyl ‘is forever’; the impact of that single shocking nuclear accident can never be undone; its radioactive footprint is embedded in our world forever and countless millions of people are still being affected by its deadly legacy."