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Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 15:44 GMT


Chernobyl aid from town twinning

Twelve years on from Chernobyl and the effects are still being felt

A partnership between the British city of Nottingham and Minsk in Belarus may help to ease the suffering caused by the world's worst nuclear accident. The BBC's Matt Youdale reports.

The people of Nottingham are helping to raise money to help their counterparts in Belarus - thanks to a partnership which has last more than 30 years.

Nottingham has been twinned with Minsk in Belarus since the 1960s.

But last June it elected a Lord Mayor with a medical background who nominated a charity providing medical aid to Belarus among the city's three official charities for the year.

In addition to the heavy social and medical fallout from the Chernobyl disaster, Belarus is also facing a worsening economic climate and the possibility of food rationing.

The Nottingham aid programme is being coordinated through Nottingham City Council, but Nottingham City Hospital is also involved.

Already taking part in exchanges of doctors and other medical staff, it is sending medical supplies, such as sutures, to Minsk.

Most of the radiation from the explosion at Chernobyl 12 years ago fell on Belarus.

The result has been an increase in child mortality, a 40% rise in children born with genetic defects and cancer hospitals which are bursting at the seams.

Financial problems

Olga Aleinikova of the National Child Cancer Hospital in Belarus said: "The economic situation is becoming poorer and poorer and the state cannot give us as much as we need."

[ image: Olga Aleinikova: 'the state cannot give us all the help we need']
Olga Aleinikova: 'the state cannot give us all the help we need'
Economists blame the country's financial problems partly on the difficulties Belarus has had in opening up to international markets after years of being geared solely towards Russia.

Doctors in Nottingham say they have a lot to learn from their colleagues in Minsk, although Nottingham City Hospital has much experience of treating cancer.

Its cancer unit treats 2,600 new patients a year and next to the unit is the UK's first CancerBACUP centre which provides support and information for anyone affected by the disease.

But Nottingham doctors say Minsk staff see many more cases of certain cancers - such as thyroid cancer - than they do because of Cerhnobyl.

"Their skills must be tremendous," said Dr Mike Sokall, a cancer specialist at Nottingham City Hospital.

"Our hospital sees one case every two years while they see 300 a year, mostly girls," he added.

Doctors in Minsk are grateful for the help they are receiving from Nottingham, but they stress that they have never asked for aid.

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