UN Resident Coordinator’s message on the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy
26 April 2021
Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe occurred 35 years ago in Ukraine.
Thirty-five years ago, on 26 April 1986, a tragic accident occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, leading to one of the worst nuclear disasters in human history.
The disaster caused grave humanitarian, environmental, social, and economic consequences. More than 300,000 people were forced to relocate within hours from their homes, schools, and places of work. Millions more suffered from the effects of radiation poison, and it was only due to the heroic sacrifice of first responders, who forewent their immediate safety and long-term health, that the fallout did not engulf much of the European continent.
Since the disaster, the United Nations has helped people living in and around Chernobyl, first through emergency and humanitarian aid, and then by supporting the recovery efforts and broader socio-economic development. The United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Chernobyl meets yearly to ensure that these efforts are aligned and mainstreamed in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Contributions from the UN agencies, funds and programmes, notably UNDP, UNICEF, IAEA, WHO and UNEP in policy advice, health response and development programming have helped the Ukrainian authorities address the long-term effects of the disaster in a manner that is sustainable and green.
At the same time Ukraine continues to share important knowledge on nuclear safety with countries around the world, leading to changes in nuclear safety policy and to improvements in the administration of nuclear plants. Even though nuclear power remains an important energy source in many countries, Chernobyl inspires policy makers to address the world’s increasing energy requirements in a holistic, broad-based approach that combines energy efficiency, reduced consumption and use of multiple energy-producing technologies.
Today, we see new life being breathed in around Chernobyl, as it attracts tourists eager to learn about nuclear safety, recovery and resilience, in line with President Zelensky’s vision to convert the area into a vibrant, sustainable green growth location. On the other hand, today we are also faced with new challenges, notably the response and recovery to Covid-19. We are convinced that the perseverance and resilience displayed during the Chernobyl disaster, will inform and strengthen the response and recovery to the current pandemic.
The United Nations in Ukraine stands ready to provide assistance and support to the people and Government of Ukraine and reaffirms its commitment to helping the country build back better.