On April 26, 1986 at 1.23 am
technicians at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in the
Ukraine allowed the power in the fourth reactor to fall as
part of a controlled experiment. To carry out their tests,
they deactivated several major safety systems that would
have shut down the reactor in case of accident.
The experiment went wrong. Two
explosions blew the top off the reactor building and a fire
started in the core which burned for several days. A cloud
of deadly radio activity dispersed into the surrounding
environment. This silent killer continued to pour from the
damaged reactor for ten days.
Children are particularly susceptible
to radiation induced illnesses and many have leukaemia,
cancer of the thyroid and other cancers. Babies are still
being born with serious deformities such as no arms, no eyes
Chernobyl Children Life Line looks
after children who are ill, organising visits to Great
Britain to give them a chance to live in a ‘clean’
environment and eat uncontaminated foods for a month. Some
40,000 children from Belarus have visited Britain since
1992. Many of the families keep in touch with the children
and some invite them for return visits each year. The
children have medical attention such as dental care and
having their eyes tested. It costs approx. GBP270 (pounds
sterling (due to fluctuating airport taxes)) to bring each
child to the United Kingdom. The children’s charity always
pays for the travel costs of the first visit, from then on
the host family pays if they want the same child to return
in the future.
The Chernobyl nuclear accident was the
biggest nuclear accident ever. The wind carried the
radiation cloud north over Belarus where 70% of the
radiation fell. The ground was heavily contaminated and will
continue to be for thousands of years. It is more than 21
years since the accident, but it is not over, in fact it is
getting worse. The people live with radiation all around
them. They drink contaminated water and wash with it. There
is very little food in Belarus and what there is, has a high
chance of being contaminated. Many people are close to
starvation with only boiled potatoes to eat.
Life is hard in Belarus and inflation
is out of control. Doctors are paid the equivalent of USD20
(U.S. Dollars) per month. An airline pilot USD80 per month.
A Christmas tree costs GBP100!
The people of Belarus are charming and
hospitable. The children are happy and well looked after.
Many children are in orphanages where brothers and sisters
in different age groups cannot be together. Foster homes are
now being built to provide a home where all the children
from one family can live together.