Today we mark the thirty fifth anniversary of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26 April 1986 – one of the most serious nuclear accidents in history.
Hundreds of thousands of people were affected by radiation. Some 350,000 people were forced to leave their homes in severely contaminated areas, with a deeply traumatic and lasting impact on their lives. Their suffering must not be forgotten.
This anniversary is an occasion to recognize the recovery efforts led by the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine, and the work of scientists who sifted through the evidence to provide important analysis that has informed emergency planning and reduced risks.
Since 1986, the United Nations has helped to address the needs of people in the areas surrounding Chernobyl, first through emergency and humanitarian aid, and then by supporting recovery and social and economic development, through our United Nations country teams working with civil society, international partners and donors.
Our joint efforts have enjoyed some success. The number of small- and medium-sized businesses operating in areas directly affected by the disaster has risen from 2,000 in 2002 to 37,000 today. Thousands of local residents, community leaders and doctors have been trained on health risks and promoting healthy lifestyles.
The Chernobyl disaster was contained by governments working with academics, civil society and others, for the common good. It holds important lessons for today’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disaster know no borders. But together, we can work to prevent and contain them, support all those in need, and build a strong recovery.