Thirty years on, the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl still has an important impact on the lives of people in Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation. However, communities have shown unparalleled resolve to chart a more sustainable future.
In light of the anniversary, a conference was held to highlight lessons learned. In his address to the conference participants, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that Belarus’ experience in responding to the tragedy could be used by people everywhere to manage the consequences of disasters. Missed profits in Belarus are estimated at US$ 13.7 billion. In addition, 470 small towns and villages had been erased from the map of Belarus with 138,000 people unrooted from their homes. Thanks to strong partnerships with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), UNDP, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), significant achievements have been made to provide local stakeholders with scientifically-accurate information.
With UNDP’s support, 21 Chernobyl-affected districts have equipped themselves with better health monitoring and healthcare services, opportunities for job creation, world-standard systems for radiological quality control and a sense of pride and cultural heritage. Through projects implemented over the span of a decade, almost 17,000 women have been screened for breast cancer, and more than 2,000 rural smallholdings have learned to grow safe crops, rear cattle and market their produce in neighboring regions. On average, these small businesses have increased their market profits by 5-20 percent. With financing of UNDP projects from the European Union (EU), new models for promoting leadership and citizen engagement in decision-making involved close to 11,000 people in the formulation of local projects.
During her official visit to Minsk, Helen Clark received an award from the Republic of Belarus, the Francysk Skaryna Order, in recognition of UNDP’s work to promote development in Belarus and to support the recovery of Chernobyl-affected communities. Helen Clark, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Makei, and Scott Rauland, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Belarus, inaugurated a new school named after U.S. citizen Ruth Waller, an employee of the UN Relief and Reconstruction Agency (UNRRA) who dedicated herself to servicing communities in post-war Belarus.
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