April 26, 2006 marked the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. At 1:23 am, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s Reactor #4 blew up after operators botched a safety test, triggering the world’s worst nuclear disaster to date. Twenty years later, the long shadow of Chernobyl continues to darken lives – socially, environmentally, and physically.
While governments are playing down the long term consequences of the accident, those scientists and medical personnel able to speak out independently see a clear connection between the high number of health anomalies in children and the fallout in given areas. These findings have enlisted the support of several international aid organizations, such as the Chernobyl Children’s Project International – which has funded institutions that care for mentally and physically disabled children in the affected regions.
Seventy percent of the fallout drifted into Belarus, contaminating nearly a quarter of that country. Mobile medical units visiting schools and government buildings are still detecting thyroid anomalies. Women, who were exposed to the fallout as children are now reaching child-bearing age; fearful of what radiation may have done to their genes, they worry about giving birth to unhealthy babies.
While the debate over the cause of the rise in birth defects, heart disease and cancers continues, Chernobyl’s otherwise voiceless victims had the grace and courage to allow their suffering to be documented solely in the hope that tragedies like Chernobyl be prevented in the future.