Home / News / News archive / 2011 / April 2011 / Chernobyl 25th anniversary: Helping Andrey

Every year, more then 200 children from the area around Chernobyl receive treatment for radiation damage at the SOS Social Centre, with priority given to children from very poor or single-parent families … more about our charity work in Belarus

Chernobyl 25th anniversary: Helping Andrey

Children in Belarus continue to suffer from the effects of radiation
Children in Belarus continue to suffer from the effects of radiation

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. The nuclear accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine in 1986 emitted radiation over a territory the size of Germany and was a human tragedy, resulting in large-scale displacement of populations, the contamination of vast areas of land, and the loss of livelihoods. It is estimated that at least 4,000 deaths are attributable to the accident, whilst thousands more continue to endure health problems as a direct result of radiation.

Seventy per cent of the radioactive dust fell on Belarus, the country worst affected by the disaster. As well as having serious economical and social repercussions, the event has had an enormous impact on people’s health. Approximately one-fifth of the population have been exposed to harmful levels of radiation. This has resulted in an increase in illnesses, including the occurrence of thyroid cancer and leukaemia. In children it is thought the rates of thyroid cancer have increased 100-fold and the instances of leukaemia have doubled. Furthermore, the psychological effects of the disaster have led to the disintegration of many families and children becoming homeless in Belarus.

The SOS Health Centre, Belarus

As a direct result of the disaster, SOS Children built its first Village in Belarus, 20 km northeast of the capital Minsk. The SOS Children's Village Borovljany includes an adjoining SOS Health Centre, which supports children from all over Belarus who are in need of medical assistance as a consequence of the Chernobyl disaster.

The SOS Health Centre in Borovljany complements the work being done at the nearby Oncological Hospital which treats patients for the long-term effects of their exposure to radiation. The Health Centre offers medical supervision and psychotherapeutic care; but most importantly gives children and their families the opportunity to stay together throughout the duration of therapy. By staying at the SOS Health Centre, children are not separated from the people closest to them during their therapy or recuperation which can sometimes last for several weeks.

Four hundred and eighty children stayed in the SOS Social Centre in 2010 and almost 3,000 children have been supported since the Centre opened.  Lilya Shestakova, Director of the SOS Health Centre Borovljany says that it’s important to offer parents counselling so they can feel more equipped in helping their child beat cancer: “I think it's important to cultivate a positive attitude and show that it is possible to defeat this disease.”

Chernobyl disaster
Children from the Health Centre
Andrey’s story

Seventeen-year-old Andrey discovered he had cancer when he went for a routine medical screening before his entrance into the military. He began treatment straight away and for the past four months, Andrey has had daily treatment at the clinic next door to the SOS Health Centre Borovljany.

Every day, he and his mother come back and stay at the SOS Health Centre: "We are very happy we can stay here at the SOS Centre, as we feel comfortable here” Andrey says. He and his mother can cook what they like and are not dependant on hospital food: "We don't have to stare at the white overalls for days and nights; we can wash our clothes," says his mother, "we don't pay rent here and that's a big help, because if we rented a flat in Minsk it would be very expensive for us and we could not afford it. We are very lucky that SOS can help us." Although Andrey’s biggest wish is to get better and join the military, he is grateful for now that he’s receiving treatment and is supported by SOS Children.

April 26th 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. It is clear that millions of people in Belarus still suffer from radioactive contamination as well as the mental and emotional affects of the disaster. SOS Children, through its Health Centre and Family Strengthening Programmes is actively supporting those who continue to live in the shadow of Chernobyl.

You can help us continue this work by Sponsoring a child in Belarus