It seems hard to believe that it’s now 25 years since the world held its breath in fear and trepidation as news of a terrifying disaster filtered out of the Soviet Union. The scale of the accident was horrifying and ensured that the word Chernobyl would, like Windscale, Three Mile Island and now Fukushima would forever be associated with nuclear catastrophe.
In 1986, many feared widespread health problems across the Western world as highly radioactive material escaped into the atmosphere from the stricken power station.
Perhaps there is no long-lasting damage here, but 25 years on, toxins still pose a huge health risk in areas affected by the fallout in Ukraine and its neighbouring states, particularly Belarus.
In the past quarter of a century, people in this area have done much to relieve the suffering of those who live in the disaster zone, and particularly the children born after the catastrophe who have spent their entire lives living with the effects.
Many have welcomed youngsters into their homes for breaks paid for by the Chernobyl Children’s Life Line charity.
It has done invaluable work in providing children with a holiday in the UK to help improve their health and as well to show them that the world community does care for them.
It is a huge eye-opener for them – few have ever been in a plane before and some have not even set foot in a car.
The anniversary gives a good opportunity to focus on the work done so far and to prepare for its continuation.
The explosion of Chernobyl’s reactor number four is still causing health problems for babies born in Belarus today.
People living there are still eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water.
The candlelight vigil in Portsmouth next week will not be a celebration, but a commitment to a continued effort to help children who by geographical accident of birth find themselves facing huge health risks.
We hope that people will give generously to the charity to help it continue its vital work.