International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day

  • Exactly 34 years ago today, the largest accident in the history of nuclear energy occurred – it was an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukrainian SSR. About 155,000 km² of the territory were polluted and nearly 8.4 million people in three affected countries were exposed to radiation.

Only in Belarus 470 small towns and villages disappeared from the map, as a result 138,000 people were forced to permanently leave their homes. One third of the territory of Belarus has been contaminated or otherwise affected by the accident.

Monument to Chernobyl Firefighters
Monument to Chernobyl Firefighters

Thirty-four years on, the Chernobyl tragedy reminds us again of itself in the alarming news about the large-scale fires that engulfed the abandoned villages and dense forest in the polluted territories of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Fires have spanned an area of 20 hectares. The cause of the fire is said to be a man-made field burning in Ukraine. The fire destroyed 12 villages in the restricted zone, the residents of which were evacuated in 1986. The well-known “red forest” also burnt – the place which 34 years ago was covered in large amounts of radioactive dust and acquired a brown-red color. Serious damage on the local ecosystem and animals, many of which are listed in the Red Book, was inflicted by fire.

At present time, during the COVID-19 pandemic, issues of climate change and social and economic development of the region have become more relevant than ever. The pandemic is already impacting the local communities and medical and social services in areas affected by the Chernobyl accident.  COVID-19 will also leave a mark on the tourism sector, urban development, industry, and will change lives of local populations, especially the elderly, children, people with disabilities and the poor. In Belarus, as in other countries, small and medium-sized businesses have already experienced the consequences of the virus.

The UN in Belarus pays respect to the victims of the Chernobyl accident.  We call on all interested partners to support the further development of the Chernobyl territories, including through comprehensive, long-term programs, partnerships and investment in development. Here you can find the Secretary-General's Report “Persistent legacy of the Chernobyl disaster” [2019].

Media Contacts
UN entities involved in this initiative
International Organization for Migration
United Nations
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Children’s Fund
World Health Organization