The Irish charity which has delivered almost €100m in humanitarian aid to Chernobyl-affected regions has announced ambitious plans to expand its health-care programmes this year — the 30th anniversary of the disaster.
Adi Roche, voluntary CEO of Chernobyl Children International (CCI), confirmed the move as she accompanied the Lord Mayor of Cork, Chris O’Leary, on a historic visit to the world’s most radioactive site.
Standing in the shadow of Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s devastated reactor number four in northern Ukraine, Mr O’Leary paid tribute to Irish volunteers and families who have helped Chernobyl victims since the nuclear accident in 1986.
He toured the abandoned city of Pripyat, and remote contaminated rural villages which are being slowly resettled. He also urged people to continue their support for Irish humanitarian efforts in the region. Mr O’Leary said he wanted to bear witness himself to the sites and people at the centre of an environmental catastrophe which triggered a tsunami of social, economic, and health disasters.
“I believe that most people may feel that Chernobyl is a part of history, but it’s actually part of reality,” he said.
Ms Roche plans to build a palliative care unit for babies and young children in Gomel,expand the charity’s Homes of Hope foster home network, its dental and hospice community care programmes, and its independent living skills programme for young institutionalised adults. She said the historic mayoral visit will help shine a light once again on the disaster.
“The impact of one accident can never be undone and it’s left a radioactive footprint embedded in the land and people. It has cast a long dark shadow over future generations,” she said. “Our message is that there is always hope.
“We know there are huge problems in Ireland but I would ask people to reflect on the power of volunteerism, solidarity, and of intervention.
“This disaster is still very present, still very real. The effects of Chernobyl will always be with us.”
The mayor’s visit marks the start of a series of commemorative events being planned by CCI for the 30th anniversary in April of the worst nuclear accident in history.
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