HUMANITARIAN CONVOY SPONSORED BY
UNESCO TO MARK 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHERNOBYL
Paris, April 9 (No.2001-56) - A
humanitarian convoy led by French students and sponsored by UNESCO is on its way
to areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Belarus to mark the 15th
anniversary of the catastrophe on April 26.
The convoy, carrying medical,
computer and educational material to hospitals, orphanages and schools, set off
on its three-day trip from UNESCO Headquarters on Saturday after a ceremony
attended by UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Science, Walter Erdelen, and
the Permanent Delegate of Belarus to UNESCO, Vladimir Senko, who also serves as
Ambassador to France.
Mr Erdelen recalled that 70
percent of the radioactive fallout from the disaster at the Ukrainian nuclear
power station had fallen into Belarus. He said: “In the contaminated areas,
people are still living in very damaged social and environmental conditions.”
Mr Ardelen underlined that “UNESCO was the first United Nations body to work
to alleviate the consequences of Chernobyl”. He hailed the action of the
students “who would have only been around 10 years old at the time of the
catastrophe” and said the convoy was an example of “establishing a culture
Mr Senko thanked the students
for their “courageous action” and added: “My country suffered more than
others from the disaster. Today, 20 percent of the national budget is dedicated
to fighting the effects of Chernobyl. Fifteen years after the disaster, the
problems remain and will continue in years to come.”
The President of the
humanitarian association Mission Humanitaire Inter Grandes Ecoles (MHIGE),
Béatrice Savornin, said at the ceremony that the trip had a dual purpose as the
students would be meeting up with students from Belarus who visited France last
Around 20 vehicles of the
convoy left UNESCO on Saturday and were to be joined en route by a 38-tonne
truck and another 20 vehicles. The convoy has been organized by MHIGE and it is
the second year running that the French students have sent a mission to Belarus.
The French student association
MHIGE was created in 1988 to ship humanitarian supplies directly to Eastern
Europe, particularly to orphanages, hospitals, schools and universities. The
students themselves assemble both the supplies and hire or borrow the vehicles.
MHIGE, a federation of 18 associations based in some of France's most
prestigious universities, engineering and business schools, also seeks to
develop cultural exchanges. In recent years, it has sent several convoys to
other countries, among them Poland, Romania and Ukraine.
The Chernobyl disaster and its
aftermath will be the subject of an exhibition at UNESCO Headquarters. From
April 17 to 27, the exhibition, organized by the permanent delegations of
Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, will feature photographs and
paintings on the theme “Chernobyl - 15 years of Tragedy”.
Since Chernobyl, UNESCO has
contributed to the establishment of 10 psychological and social rehabilitation
centres targeting populations hit by the 1986 catastrophe in Belarus, the
Russian Federation and Ukraine.