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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 10:39 GMT
Millions of Chernobyl victims still suffering
Chernobyl nuclear plant
Millions of people still require government handouts
Sixteen years after the Chernobyl nuclear accident thousands of people are still living in contaminated areas and millions of people are still in need of international assistance, according to a United Nations report.

The study by four UN agencies calls for "an entirely new approach" to help those in a state of "chronic dependency" in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

Level of contamination
Belarus - 23% of land
Ukraine - 5% of land
Russia - 1.5%
According to the report those most affected by the disaster have difficulty getting jobs, cannot support themselves financially and suffer drastic health problems - with many developing thyroid cancer.

The explosion and fire at Chernobyl's No 4 reactor in April 1986 was the world's worst nuclear accident - it contaminated vast areas of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia and sent a radioactive cloud across Europe.

Danger zone

The UN report says that while much has been done to reduce the contamination more than seven million people in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are still suffering the effects.

Experts measuring radioactivity near Chernobyl
Some people have returned to the most contaminated areas

Nuclear contamination remains in 23% of Belarus, 5% of Ukraine and 1.5% of Russia, according to the study which was carried out in 2001.

Despite the danger, between 100,000 and 200,000 people either remained near Chernobyl or have returned to live inside the 30-kilometre (19-mile) zone that is still highly radioactive.

In theory, people are banned from being in the area.

Psychological damage

At least 8,000 people have died, most from radiation-related diseases.

About 2,000 people have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and between 8,000 and 10,000 cases are expected to develop over the next 10 years, the report said.

Health problems
8,000 killed, mostly from radiation related diseases
2,000 people diagnosed with thyroid cancer
8,000 -10,000 thyroid cancer cases expected in next 10 years

The most highly contaminated areas were evacuated, but according to the report this too took its toll - causing psychological problems for those moved.

"The psycho-social welfare of people who stayed in their homes is better than that of those who were relocated," the study found.

The report calls for a complete change in how aid is delivered to the area - shifting the emphasis from short term relief to long term recovery.

Kenzo Oshima, head of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said: "We must not turn our back on the government and people of the most affected countries after a decade and a half of assistance. We must not leave the job half done."

Taking control

The report calls for help in finding people jobs, fostering small businesses and reviving agriculture in the areas most affected by the disaster.

"Populations in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine would continue to experience general decline unless significant new measures are adopted to address health, the environment and unemployment," it said.

"Focusing on their needs and helping them take control of their destinies must be a priority," the report added.

Four and a half million people are still receiving government relief which is putting an enormous strain on national budgets, especially in Belarus and Ukraine.

Over the past 10 years Belarus has spent more than $1bn on victims of the accident, while last year alone Ukraine spent $100m.

See also:

16 Jan 02 | Europe
Chernobyl trauma lives on
23 Oct 01 | Health
Chernobyl's cancer world record
08 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Chernobyl children show DNA changes
26 Apr 01 | Media reports
Media recalls Chernobyl
03 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Ukraine
28 Sep 01 | Europe
Timeline: Ukraine
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