One hundred and twenty children and young adults with special needs from the region in Belarus affected by Chernobyl have arrived in Ireland to begin a four-week holiday of rest and recuperation from the most toxic landscape in the world.

The children, who are third generation victims of Chernobyl, will stay with more than 80 host families across nine counties.

It is part of a long-standing campaign stretching back over three decades by the Chernobyl Children international agency.

The agency aims to help improve their health and prolong their lives against the ongoing effect of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986.

Research has shown that the children, who come from impoverished backgrounds and state-run institutions, get a health reprieve from the toxic environment and high levels of radiation to which they have been exposed.

Their radiation levels drop by nearly 50% during their month-long stay.

Over the past 30 years, 25,500 children from Belarus and western Russia have visited Ireland as part of the annual summer rest and recuperation programme.

Ireland is now acknowledged as the country that has provided the most valuable ongoing aid, advocacy and support for the victims of the disaster.

It continues to be at the forefront of an international campaign, through the UN, to focus attention on their plight.


Read more

The Legacy of Chernobyl - The Land
The legacy of Chernobyl - The Children


Adi Roche, who has lead the project since the disaster, says many of the children who arrived in Ireland today reside in Vesnova Children's mental asylum, an institution for abandoned children.

It is now the base for the Cork charity's most ambitious programme - the Restoration of Rights Programme - which is offering children the hope of a safe alternative of life in the orphanage.

"While the Chernobyl accident happened 33 years ago the consequences last forever," said Ms Roche.

"Our work on de-institutionalisation and finding alternatives to orphanages is the most important body of work we have ever undertaken.

"It is amazing to see some of the children and young adults learn to read and write for the first time and have their abilities be the focus, rather than any disabilities they may have."

International attention on the disaster has been renewed for a whole new generation of young people following the HBO and Sky drama 'Chernobyl,' which has aired in recent months, showing what happened at Chernobyl, the reaction to it and long-term consequences of it.