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Cancer, Chernobyl, NGO, Children, Belarus
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CitiHope International, based in Andes, N.Y., began a mission in 1986 to bring both spiritual and medical hope to the children of Chernobyl. This project focuses on the volunteer's efforts in Belarus.
Ezra Shaw

1996 — student winner

On April 26, 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station on the border of the Ukraine and Belarus exploded. The fire, which burned out of control for five days, spewed more than 50 tons of radioactive fallout across region. The wind carried the heaviest radioactive deposits across Belarus, where even today a large portion of the land is considered uninhabitable. Schools were closed, thousands of villages were abandoned, prime cattle were slaughtered and huge factories were shut down.

The government denied the accident happened for several days, allowing the people in the Gomel region of Belarus to linger in the radiation. The cause of the medical illnesses are often hard to find, and much harder to prove. But, the rise in the number of cancer cases in this region is too great for any other conclusion – it has to be the radiation. Many doctors and radiation specialists say that it is too early to know everything about the long term effects of Chernobyl.

The disaster happened in the midst of the Cold War, and it was years before the Soviet Union allowed outside nations to help. Now there are many relief organizations around the world trying to provide the necessary medical and financial supplies to the people of Belarus.

The United Nations Agency “UNICEF” assessed the impact of Chernobyl on the health of children in Belarus and found increases in:
    *25% increase in congenital heart and circulatory diseases
    *28% increase in disorders of the digestive organs
    *38% increase in malignant tumors
    *43% increase in disorders of the nervous system and sensory organs
    *62% increase in disorders of the bone, muscle and connective tissue system
    (From the 1995 UN Report on Chernobyl)

In the fall of 1996, after being awarded a grant from the Alexia Foundation for World Peace, I spent a week visiting different hospitals in Belarus. This series of pictures are of children that have been affected by the radiation fallout. Although it is not yet certain what will happen to the children, it is definitely clear that they do need help. Many of the children are curable, but the hospitals lack the medicine and the supplies needed to help the children.

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GOMEL, BELARUS:  4-year-old Andrey Sabirov from Gomel rests his head on the side of his bed on August 20, 1996, at the Gomel Regional Clinical Hospital in Belarus. Andrey has been diagnosed with leukemia. A 1995 United Nations report stated that the Chernobyl disaster caused a 100% increase in the incidence of cancer and leukemia in children. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/Alexia Foundation
MINSK, BELARUS:  2-year-old Nastya Dolgovevets from Slutsk village in the Minsk region of Belarus sits on her bed on August 16, 1996, at the Children’s Division of the Oncology Research Institute in Minsk, Belarus. She has been diagnosed with a left wrist tumor. The marks on her head were from iodine that the doctors used to cover up little spots that were beginning to appear on her body whose cause they were unsure of. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/Alexia Foundation
MINSK, BELARUS:  4-year-old Artem Vasyuk poses for a picture on August 16, 1996, at the Children’s Division of the Oncology Research Institute in Minsk, Belarus. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/Alexia Foundation
MINSK, BELARUS:  5-month-old Vova Aksenov from the city of Minsk is connected to life support at the intensive care unit of the Children’s regional hospital on August 17, 1996, in Minsk, Belarus. Vova was born premature. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/Alexia Foundation
MINSK, BELARUS:  Zhenya Logvin (left) and Vitaly Afanaskenko, both 12-years-old, pose for a picture while watching cartoons in the playroom on August 16, 1996, at the Children’s Division of the Oncology Research Institute in Minsk, Belarus. They were watching Tom and Jerry on the television. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/Alexia Foundation
GOMEL, BELARUS:  Doctors at the Gomel Regional Clinical Hospital begin to operate on 3-month-old Olga Danilenko, who was born with multiple birth defects on August 20, 1996. A 1995 United Nations report stated that the Chernobyl disaster caused a 250% increase in congenital birth deformities. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/Alexia Foundation
GOMEL, BELARUS:  10-year-old Andrey Malshkov lies in bed on August 20, 1996, at the Gomel Regional Clinical Hospital in Belarus. Andrey has been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia.  A 1995 United Nations report stated that the Chernobyl disaster caused a 100% increase in the incidence of cancer and leukemia in children. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/Alexia Foundation