Legacy of Chernobyl: Radiation’s long fingered reach

Two decades after the tragedy at Chernobyl, a tired eeriness still hovers over parts of the Ukraine, the shadow of the nuclear accident still blighting the lives of local people.

There has been a massive exodus from the area worst hit, which now resembles a ghost town. Broader afield, though, people yet remain and fight the macabre legacy of what some have called ‘the Pompeii of the Nuclear Age’.

Thyroid cancer, leukemia, heart disease and mental illnesses are some of the worst forms of ongoing ‘fall out’ from Chernobyl. Maternal health and foetal growth are strong suspects too, with some doctors continuing to report higher levels of congenital damage and mutations than in earlier times.

Life leaves few choices, though, for those who eke out an existence in the depressed area. A staggering 25% of the people live beneath the local poverty line of $3 to $4 dollars a day, nowhere near enough to meet European prices for food and medical care. Life is a struggle and not everybody is winning. People are dying at a younger age now than in earlier times.

For them, Chernobyl is not a forgotten event of yesteryear. It is an ongoing part of life today. Despite the time lag since the tragedy, therefore, NGOs still operate in the embattled region, among them Mission Without Borders (MWB), a participant in the Global Hand network. It provides nutritional and medical support for the Ukraine, together with broader programmes that reach across Eastern Europe.

MWB repeatedly uses this website to resource those projects. Harry Graham, UK General Secretary, says the work of Global Hand is invaluable in providing support to MWB and likeminded organisations. Two examples of online matches both found their way into the struggling families of the Ukraine.

  • The Youth Football Association in Liverpool mobilised local schools, together with the wider community, to collect football kits and boots to send as Christmas presents to less fortunate children. They offered these on Global Hand and MWB responded, distributing them to children across Eastern Europe, including the struggling children in the Ukraine. They help equip the children for emotional support activities, such as camps and educational training: programmes that help improve children’s awareness of health and raise their self esteem.
  • The ‘Snuggle Sac Company’ in Norfolk offered surplus stock of 500 Children’s Polar Fleece Sleeping Bags. MWB again responded. They were ideal for Ukraine’s merciless winter and a welcome gift to Ukrainian mothers whom MWB regularly assists with pre/post natal help and child growth support.

MWB regularly uses Global Hand to find help that, whether large or even small scale, can be strategic in resourcing its projects.

In a world that has largely moved on from that infamous nuclear accident, it is critical to continue NGO activity if the affected population is to be supported in its battle against Chernobyl’s tenacious grip.


Regions / countries / territories

Europe: Ukraine

Global issues

Children, youth and family welfare; Disasters and humanitarian affairs ; Energy