Sixteen years ago, as a result of the catastrophe on the Chernobyl NPP, a significant part of the territory of three countries - Belarus, Russian Federation and the Ukraine - was indiscernibly cursed by radiation. Such notions as 'exclusion zone', 'radiation-induced diseases', 'contaminated food' have turned out to be an integral part of life in the contaminated regions.
The Republic of Belarus was fated to experience the gravest consequences of Chernobyl with 70 % of radioactive fallouts deposited on its territory. At present, one quarter of the country is contaminated with radionuclides. About 264 thousand hectares of fertile lands were phased out from agricultural turnover. The economic damage the disaster inflicted is estimated at 235 billion US dollars.
Two million people, including over 400 thousand children, inhabit the contaminated regions of Belarus. As compared to the pre-disaster period, the thyroid cancer incidence in Belarusian children has increased by 33.6 times, that in adults - by 2.5-7 times. The greatest number of thyroid cancer cases is registered among the residents of Gomel and Brest regions.
Disease incidence in "clean-up workers", i.e. those who took part in liquidation of the catastrophe consequences in 1986-1987, greatly exceeds disease incidence in unaffected population of the same age. The greatest difference is observed in incidence of pathologies of endocrine system, blood circulation and digestive systems, ischemia and neoplasms.
In comparison to disease incidence in those living in the clean regions, the higher incidence of pathology of nervous and endocrine systems, malignant thyroid tumour in people of contaminated Belarus' areas is registered. For this category the increase in birth defects is also observed.
Belarus' Government undertakes large-scale efforts to overcome medical consequences of the catastrophe, to revive the economy and social sphere of the affected regions, to provide socio-psychological rehabilitation of population. The National Program on Minimization of the Chernobyl Consequences is being implemented.
The timely implementation of these measures requires significant funds be allocated from the state budget, which capacity is limited. In 1991-2001 Belarus has spent the equivalent of 12.7 billion US dollars for these purposes. As a result of the focused efforts, the most urgent problems have been solved. It should be however acknowledged that the inflicted damage is incommensurable with the country's economic and technological potential.
Belarus conducts an active policy aimed at cooperation with other states, international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to solve these issues. At present three states, as well as the United Nations and European Union render assistance to the Republic of Belarus, that decreases the burden on the Belarus' state budget. Meanwhile, the scale of international assistance to Belarus is far from meeting its needs and political mandate formulated in the resolution 56/109 of the UN General Assembly.
Belarus advocates strengthening the UN Chernobyl-related capacity with adequate human and financial resources, rendering an obligatory status to decisions of the UN Task Force on Chernobyl, extending the mandate of UN/UNDP country offices with the task of informing the world community on needs of the affected populations.
Belarus is determined to playing an active role in this process in future. In cooperation with other states, international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, it will strive to optimise efforts aimed at attracting foreign financial and technical assistance on a mutually acceptable basis and at increasing its efficiency.