The Fermanagh Omagh branch of the Chernobyl Children Appeal NI is marking 35 years since one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history today (Monday).
The disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine, which unfolded over April 25 and 26, 1986, has affected generations of children and adults in the surrounding areas of Ukraine and Belarus in the years since then.
At least 28 people initially died as a result of the explosion, while more than 100 were injured.
For almost three decades, the local branch of the Chernobyl Children Appeal has been bringing over children from the affected areas to Fermanagh and Omagh for respite holidays.
The short time that they spend in the North greatly improves their health and offers a boost to their immune system.
But, for the second year running, the annual visit of children has had to be cancelled due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day
Instead, the Strule Arts Centre will be lit up purple today to mark International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day, as part of events around the world dedicated to raising awareness of the consequences of the explosion and the risks of nuclear energy in general.
Jane Weir, Fermanagh and Omagh branch leader for the charity, said the children are still suffering severe side effects from the event 35 years ago.
“Even though the world’s worst nuclear disaster occurred 35 years ago, these children who weren’t even alive when it happened, still suffer life-limiting health issues because of it.
“The children not only suffer from poor health but come from extremely deprived backgrounds,” Jane said.
“These annual respite visits have immense, proven health benefits for the children. The children that are aged between seven and 14 each stay with a family in the Omagh and Fermanagh area for up to three weeks.
“The charity’s small committee fundraise tirelessly throughout the year and fully fund the visits themselves. Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, as well as various local businesses provide educational outings, health / eye care, and clothes for them.
“However, there are somethings that we take for granted in Omagh and Fermanagh, that the children benefit most from during their visit – uncontaminated food, air and water.
“Not only is it a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience for the children, it also benefits their health immensely by reducing the radiation levels and extending their lives. It is also an enjoyable but very humbling experience for the host families.”
She added, “I would like to thank the charity committee, our local council and businesses that have supported the charity over the years, without them these visits would simply not be possible.”
She added, “I would like to thank the charity committee, our local council and businesses that have supported charity over the years, without them these visits would simply not be possible.”