Sustainable development of Chornobyl affected areas – UN’s goal for today
New York - Kyiv - Korosten, 24 April 2009 - UN agencies commemorate the 23rd Chornobyl anniversary with launch of USD 2.5-million project designed to meet the priority information needs of communities in Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. Funded by the UN Human Security Trust Fund, this three-year initiative aims at translating the latest scientific information on the impact of the accident into sound practical advice, including tips on healthy lifestyles, for people living in the areas affected by the 1986 nuclear accident.
The new project is a joint effort by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Joint ceremony marking the project launch has been conducted in the UN HQ in New York.
In Ukraine, over 50 participants representing local self-governments, community leaders, private businesses and international donors have participated in a round-table meeting in Korosten (Zhytomyr Region) where they discussed the joint actions required for sustainable development in Chornobyl fall-out territories. This and other events confirm one more time that the Chornobyl remain on the top of the agenda for UN agencies.
"Sound information equals power. Give people the facts and they can make informed decisions about their health and the health of their children," said Jeremy Hartley, a. i. Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Ukraine and UNICEF Representative in Ukraine. "There is a continuing need for scientifically accurate information that enables the people living in contaminated territories to build their lives rationally, safely bring their lives back to normal and ensure sustainable development in this entire region."
As meeting participants agreed, providing scientifically sound information for Chornobyl-affected communities was a shared priority for UN-led work on Chonobyl in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. For a long time assistance from international organisations aimed at overcoming the consequences of Chornobyl disaster was primarily channelled into construction of the shelter over the fourth reactor, lessening of the radiation impact on people's health and humanitarian aid to the affected population.
However, in 2002 the United Nations shifted the focus of its Chornobyl efforts from emergency assistance to social recovery and economic development. The special focus in the new strategy for the revival of territories affected by Chornobyl disaster is provision of reliable information on the norms of safe living and healthy lifestyles within the affected territories.
In response to these needs, mandated by a 2007 UN General Assembly resolution, the project, known as the "International Chornobyl Research and Information Network" (ICRIN), is part of a larger effort to help local communities "return to normal" during the recovery decade ending in 2016.
The new project will draw on the work of the UN Chornobyl Forum, a joint research undertaking by eight UN agencies that published reassuring scientific findings in 2005. Dissemination of these findings in accessible language should help dispel widespread myths about radiation and give people helpful information on reducing risks to their health and well-being.
Activities planned under the ICRIN project include publication of hands-on information materials; training for a range of influential local figures, including teachers, medical professionals, community leaders, and the media outlets; and the creation of Internet centres in rural areas to provide local communities with tools to find the information they need.
In Ukraine, the development of Chornobyl affected territories through community development initiatives has been successfully implemented since 2003 within the UNDP-led Chornobyl Recovery and Development Programme - a project operating in the country's four worst-hit regions - Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Chernigiv and Rivne Regions. The UN Trust Fund for Human Security was one of key supporter of programme activities in 2004-2007. As a result, a total of 297 organisations in 192 villages are covering over 20,000 people with the Programme's activities. Uniting their own resources with those of local authorities and the private sector, they are implementing projects focused on making a real difference in their lives. The experience of CRDP on the development of target-group-specific information materials on relevant issues of Chornobyl accident consequences has been used to design the current sub-regional project on information needs.
The UN Children's Fund together with its partners has produced a special edition of the UNICEF flagship publication "Facts for Life" that is addressed to the families who live on the Chornobyl affected territories. The "Facts for Life" kit includes a publication, posters and leaflets and provides essential information on radiation, safe pregnancy, child development and nutrition, diseases and injuries prevention, etc.
UNICEF has started to develop the network of Papa-Schools aimed at raising awareness of fathers and improving their engagement in child development and care. Such models have proved effective in Sweden for over 20 years. In March 2009 the first Papa-School was officially registered in Zhytomyr. Currently UNICEF is developing such schools in Novograd-Volynskiy and Berdychiv.
On regional and district level within Chornobyl-affected territories, UNICEF together with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and local partners works on education of medical staff regarding evidence based mother and child care practices, and introduction of Integrated Management of Child Illnesses programme on district and village level. These interventions are aimed at improving the primary health care of mothers and children that will ensure a decrease in postnatal complications in mothers and infants as well as reduce child mortality and morbidity.
As we commemorate the 23rd anniversary of Chornobyl nuclear accident, the UN sends out a vital message of hope and calls for support to continue assisting the social and economic recovery of the regions and communities affected by Chornobyl catastrophe. To be successful in getting rid of Chornobyl's legacy of fear every helping hand counts - but it must not only help sustainable recovery from the past legacy, but also prevention of future catastrophes and guaranteed safety from the burden of nuclear waste.
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