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The BBC's Mike Donkin
"The health threats will continue for many more years to come"
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Adi Roche of the Chernobyl Children's Project
"The effects of the disaster have moved to the next generation"
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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
UN plea for Chernobyl victims
Chernobyl nuclear power station
The nuclear plant was finally closed last December
By UN correspondent Mike Donkin

The United Nations has urged foreign donors to help people in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia still living with the consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The Chernobyl disaster chapter unfortunately is not completed

Ukrainian ambassador for the UN, Valery Kuchinsky
Fifteen years after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, spewing radioactive fallout across much of Europe, new effects of the explosion are still being keenly felt, the UN has been told during an anniversary gathering.

It was only last December that the Ukraine government finally switched off the entire plant at the price of a $2bn Western aid package which will see it entombed in a vast sarcophagus.

Human cost

But the UN has said nowhere near enough help is likely for the many people who still live daily with the legacy of Chernobyl.

Measuring radioactivity
A specialist measures contamination around Chernobyl
Since reactor four at Chernobyl threw up its mushroom cloud, 30,000 people are thought to have died from the radioactive fall-out.

Seven million people were still directly affected by Chernobyl, the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator, Kenzo Oshima said.

Cases of thyroid cancer among children were now running at up to 500 times that before the disaster.

Foetuses in danger

The peak in the number of cases of this and other forms of cancer was not expected for another three decades.

In an alarming development Adi Roche of the Chernobyl Children's Project says the effects of the disaster have moved on to the next generation.

"By that I mean those who were five and six years old in 1986, who are now the young adults, the young parents of today, who are now having children.

"We are now discovering that particularly iodine 131 and caesium 137 actually penetrates the placenta and feeds directly straight from the mother into the foetus," Ms Roche said.

Uncertain legacy

Mr Oshima appealed to international donors, who had pledged billions to build the new sarcophagus, to think too of the human cost of what he called this most long-term of tragedies.

The Ukrainian ambassador for the UN, Valery Kuchinsky, said that despite 15 years of medical and scientific research in his country, the full legacy of Chernobyl remained uncertain.

Much more work was needed, he said, to protect the children and grandchildren of those caught up in the nuclear fallout, and to be sure that the world was safe from another nuclear disaster.

He said: "The Chernobyl disaster chapter unfortunately is not completed.

"Despite the extensive research, scientific and medical knowledge of its consequences, we entered the new millennium with a wide range of new and open questions."

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See also:

15 Dec 00 | Europe
Chernobyl shut down for good
10 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Chernobyl's effects linger on
14 Dec 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The legacy of Chernobyl
22 Apr 00 | Europe
Deadly toll of Chernobyl
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