Trust for Chernobyl Children Background




Belarus lies in the heart of Europe (see map 1 to the right) and was the country most severely affected by the nuclear explosion at the Ukrainian nuclear plant in Chernobyl in April 1986.  70 per cent of the radioactive particles blew over Belarus, (see map 2 to the right) contaminating 22 per cent of its agricultural land and 21 per cent of its forests.  In 1986 2.2 million people, one fifth of the population, lived in the contaminated areas. Today, despite a huge resettlement programme, 1.3million people still live on contaminated land.  The official estimate of the damage to the economy of Belarus is US$235 billion, 60 times the annual national budget.

During the past 10 years the percentage of healthy children has dropped and the number of disabled children is growing.  It is widely recognised that those affected by Chernobyl suffer from a weakened immune system.  The World Health Organisation predicts that one third of all the children from the area around Gomel aged between 0 and 4 at the time of the accident will develop thyroid cancer during their lifetime – a total of 50,000 children.  Health studies on Chernobyl children have also shown a growth in nervous system diseases, mental disorders and congenital diseases including rare forms of genetic abnormalities.  There have been significant increases in children suffering from cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, diabetes and other diseases. 

Another key factor affecting the lives and health of the Belarusian people is the psychological stress of living with the uncertainty about the consequences of Chernobyl on their own and their children’s health.  The resettlement programme itself has created huge problems; many have not been able to come to terms with having to leave the villages of their ancestors and repeated adverse experiences since the nuclear disaster have created a feeling of helplessness in the people affected. Life expectancy in Belarus for men is now 10 years lower than in Sri Lanka, one of the 20 poorest countries in the world.

Further information on the legacy of Chernobyl can be found at  ,a website run by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

1.3 million people still live on contaminated land
Belarus locationcontamination area

Get in touch

Trust for Chernobyl Children (Surrey and Kent)
2, Burtons Field Cottages, Crook Road, Brenchley, Kent TN12 7BT
Tel: +44 (0)1892 723610