UN cuts aid to Chernobyl-hit area, encourages self-reliance

Other News Materials 20 November 2007 16:14 (UTC +04:00)

( RIA Novosti ) - The United Nations will cut aid to the areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 21 years ago to encourage national development programs, a senior UN official said on Tuesday.

International aid will start to subside against the backdrop of more acute global problems like famine and climate change, said Louisa Vinton, a senior UN Development Program manager for the Western CIS and Caucasus countries, and for Chernobyl coordination.

The UN General Assembly's draft resolution, expected to be passed on Tuesday, declares the next 10 years as a "decade of recovery and sustainable development" in the affected regions of Ukraine, where a reactor exploded in 1986, Belarus and Russia.

"Those areas still face many challenges, such as unemployment and emigration, not least because people in the region had been treated as victims for 20 years, creating a culture of dependency, apathy and fatalism," Cihan Sultanoglu, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the UNDP, told a news conference.

Vinton said reputable scientific studies conducted so far have concluded that the impact of radiation on human health and the environment has been less damaging than was feared.

Vinton said Ukraine, Belarus and Russia should also step up efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle and introduce measures against tobacco smoking and alcoholism, which have proved to be greater health hazards.

Estimates by international bodies of the number of deaths caused by the world's worst nuclear disaster vary dramatically. Fifty-six people were reported to have been killed directly and another 4,000 to have died of thyroid cancer shortly after the accident. Several million more are believed to have been exposed to different degrees of radiation.

Vast areas, mainly in the three ex-Soviet states, were contaminated by the fallout of the explosion. More than 300,000 people were relocated after the accident. But 5 million people still live in the areas of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine classified as "contaminated" with radioactive elements. An 18-mile zone around the reactor remains largely deserted to this day.

The amount of international aid to the affected territories is still to be calculated, but UN experts put the figure at hundreds of billions of dollars, some of which has been misspent.