International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day on April 26

An explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986 spread a radioactive cloud over large parts of the Soviet Union, now the territories of Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation. In 1991 the UN created the Chernobyl Trust Fund – currently under the management of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Since 1986, the UN family of organizations and major NGOs have launched more than 230 different research and assistance projects in the fields of health, nuclear safety, rehabilitation, environment, production of clean foods and information. In 2002 the United Nations announced a shift in the Chernobyl strategy, with a new focus on a long-term developmental approach. UNDP and its regional offices in the three affected countries took the lead in the implementation of the new strategy. There is still a great deal of work that needs to be done in the affected region. To provide support to international, national and public programmes targeted at the sustainable development of these territories, in 2009 UN launched the International Chernobyl Research and Information Network (ICRIN).

On 8 December 2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 26 April as International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day. The General Assembly recognized that, “three decades after the Chernobyl disaster, the still-persistent serious long-term consequences thereof, as well as the continuing related needs of the affected communities and territories,” and invited “all Member States, relevant agencies of the United Nations system and other international organizations, as well as civil society, to observe the day.”

Based on the official reports, nearly 8.4 million people in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine were exposed to the radiation, which is more than the population of Austria. About 155,000 sq. km of territories in the three countries were contaminated, which is almost half of the total territory of Italy. Agricultural areas covering nearly 52,000 sq. km, which is more than the size of Denmark, were contaminated with cesium-137 and strontium-90, with 30-year and 28-year half-lives respectively. Nearly 404,000 people were resettled, but millions continued to live in an environment where continued residual exposure created a range of adverse effects.

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