Chernobyl holds important lessons for response to COVID-19 – UN boss

Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that the Chernobyl disaster 35 years ago holds important lessons for today’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was contained by governments working with academics, civil society and others, for the common good, thus holding important lessons for today’s COVID-19 response, he noted in a message for the 35th anniversary of Chernobyl.

“Disasters know no borders. But together, we can work to prevent and contain them, support all those in need, and build a strong recovery,” he said.

The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986, was one of the most serious nuclear accidents in history with hundreds of thousands of people affected by radiation and some 350,000 people forced to leave their homes in severely contaminated areas. Their suffering must not be forgotten, said Guterres.

This anniversary is an occasion to recognize the recovery efforts led by the governments of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, and the work of scientists who sifted through the evidence to provide important analysis that has informed emergency planning and reduced risks, he said.

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 the UN 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,” he said.

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