Life for Survivors of Chernobyl in Belarus
The Chernobyl disaster, which occurred on April 26,
1986, was one of the worst nuclear catastrophes in history. Caused by a power
surge that overloaded the plant's core reactors, the resulting explosions
released radioactive particles that spread over much of Europe and the western
parts of the former Soviet Union. Today, the effects of this terrible accident
are still being felt in Belarus.
There has been much
speculation about the connection between the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and
serious medical conditions such as cancer and birth defects. According to the
World Nuclear Association (WNA), aside from the 30 initial fatalities caused by
the explosions and subsequent fires, few deaths in Belarus, Ukraine and western
Russia can be directly attributed to the Chernobyl disaster. However, given the
WNA's role as an advocate for nuclear power, these
figures have been disputed by some scientists, including the authors of
"Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment."
investigations by the World Health Organization and the United Nations
Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), apart from a
marked increase in reported cases of thyroid cancer, there was a significantly
lower impact on human health in the region than initially believed. The full
extent of the tragedy, however, may not be understood for many years.
However, one aspect of
the catastrophe that was, and is, a serious problem in Belarus and neighboring
countries is the psychological harm felt by people living in the area
surrounding Chernobyl. Fearing radioactive contamination of the areas
surrounding their homes, many people suffer
from prolonged emotional trauma that survivors of natural disasters often
experience. In addition, alcohol abuse and other harmful behaviors have
increased in many parts of Eastern Europe, including Belarus, a country
Another major problem
caused by the Chernobyl disaster was population displacement. Around 116,000
people were evacuated from the area following the disaster, and the anxiety that
stems from the uncertainty about potential exposure to radiation takes a toll on
the mental health of survivors. The government of Belarus is currently engaged
in a major relocation project to return families displaced by the catastrophe
back to their homes, with the goal of rehousing more than 137,000 people from
the Gomel and Mogilev areas.
Today, 27 years after
the catastrophe, the people of Belarus are learning to rebuild. In the meantime,
be there to help children and families.