Thirty years ago today, in the early morning of April 26, 1986, the world experienced an unprecedented nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the people living around the affected areas in Chernobyl are still living with the consequences. Children are particularly affected. But almost no one knows their story…
The continuing high levels of radiation in the region have caused thousands of children to be born with congenital birth defects or to develop anomalies in their development. Fatal heart defects are especially common. World of Children Honoree Adi Roche has been working to help these children for over twenty five years. She and her organization, Chernobyl Children International (CCI), have saved thousands of children’s lives and increased the quality of life for countless others.
But there is much more work to be done. More than 6,000 children are still born with fatal heart defects every single year in the Ukraine. Unless these children have surgery within the first year or two of their lives, they are unlikely to survive. CCI continues to respond with Cardiac Missions that send groups of trained medical volunteers, including cardiac nurses, technicians, and surgeons, to the Ukraine to perform life-saving heart surgeries. These volunteers work alongside local medical staff and provide training to build up the area’s local capacity to treat these medical issues.
CCI has developed its programs over time and they now include programs that work to de-institutionalize children living with disabilities and provide support to families raising children with special needs in their homes. They continue to facilitate rest and recuperation trips for children who need respite from living in a radioactive environment. These programs bring children from the Chernobyl region to stay with volunteer host families in Ireland. Just a few weeks spent in a non-toxic environment can extend a child’s life expectancy by two full years. In addition, they support building and reconstruction efforts that upgrade the facilities of orphanages and day care programs.
We were proud to present Adi Roche with a 2015 Alumni Award for her continued dedication to the children of the Chernobyl region. Thanks to our generous supporters, the Award included funding for a CCI cardiac mission to Kharkiv. We recently received news of the cardiac mission’s success.
We look forward to sharing photos from the trip TOMORROW, as part of our series remembering the children of Chernobyl and honoring the work of Adi Roche and her dedicated staff.