By Shelley Marsden
A GROUP of children from the affected regions of Chernobyl arrived in Ireland on Sunday to begin a period of summer rest and recuperation.
Adi Roche, voluntary CEO of Chernobyl Children International (CCI), was there to welcome the first plane of children to ShannonAirport yesterday as part of the charity’s annual airlift.
The children, who come from impoverished backgrounds, institutions and foster homes in the heart of the contaminated Chernobyl zone, will be hosted by Irish families throughout seventeen Irish counties as part of CCI’s Summer Rest & Recuperation Programme.
Ms Roche said: “Despite the difficult economic circumstances many families find themselves in Ireland, our volunteers have opened their hearts and their homes this summer to children who so desperately need our help.
She added: “While the Chernobyl accident happened almost 30 years ago, the consequences last forever. My heartfelt gratitude goes to the volunteers who offer hope to live to the children who the world has largely forgotten.”
During their stay, the children will gain respite from the high levels of radiation to which they continue to be exposed to back home as a result of the Chernobyl explosion. The summer is a particularly dangerous time in the region, as intense heat contributes to the redistribution of radioactive materials.
The new threat of a forest fire is also a danger for children, as forests around the nuclear plant are only decaying at a rate of 40%. Should the trees catch fire, radioactive material would spread beyond the off limits zone to the 1000 square-miles around the decommissioned facility located 68 miles north of Kiev.
The arrival of this summer’s children brings the total number of children who have benefited under the scheme to over 24,700 children since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. According to CCI, a month in Ireland with clean air and food can potentially add up to two years to the life of a child from Chernobyl.