The Greater Chernobyl Cause hosted a small private commemorative event today in Cork to mark the 34th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The short ceremony was closed to the public arising out of the Covid 19 pandemic.
It was attended by the charity founder Fiona Corcoran, the Lord Mayor of Cork Dr John Sheehan and religious leaders.
About thirty people died in the 1986 explosion and emergency response.
However, debate continues over the number of people who have died as a result of the incident. Deaths are estimated to be in their thousands.
WHO recognises a “dramatic increase in thyroid cancer . . . among those exposed at a young age” to the nuclear fallout and “some indication of increased leukaemia and cataract incidence among workers” in the clean-up operation. Chernobyl’s last reactor was shut down in 2000.
The explosion at the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl remains a vivid memory for Cork women Fiona Corcoran, who felt a strong urge and duty to take action to help in what would quickly become known as the biggest nuclear disaster in human history.
“I was 20 years old when the Chernobyl explosion occurred.
"It wasn’t until several days later that the world realized the gravity of the explosion and I vividly remember the RTÉ news which covered the aftermath, and being afraid for the people of USSR.
"Reading a newspaper article about four children being airlifted from Belarus to Ireland inspired me to become involved in a visiting programme at the Mercy Hospital.
"I was inspired by the work of Sister Fidelma who cared for the children in the hospital as well as Anne Norman, who introduced me to the world of Chernobyl.
"Sadly a few weeks later, one of the children named Evgenia Nesterenko passed away, and she has become the catalyst for my work in the former USSR countries.”
Fiona went on to establish the Greater Chernobyl Cause, which has been committed to helping the lives of severely disadvantaged victims of the disaster – from orphans to the elderly and infirm – living in parts of Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Russia.
“Our main emphasis,” Ms Corcoran explains, “is on providing help and life-saving medical equipment for the long-term victims of the disaster, as well as the growing number of children who every day are being diagnosed with cancer, leukaemia and acute respiratory infections.
"Their hopes depend on more modern equipment to deal with cancers and other illnesses.”
Already, the Greater Chernobyl Cause has donated several ultrasound machines, but so much more is needed.
The Cork-based charity is commemorating the anniversary of the Chernobyl Disaster by renewing its plea to the Irish public to donate whatever money they can to support Fiona and her team’s efforts in providing medical equipment, as well helping in the refurbishment of orphanages and hospices in the affected regions.
“I am appealing once again to the Irish tradition of spontaneous giving, even in these hard economic times here at home.
"Our work with the forgotten people must continue.”
In Kazakhstan, the world’s largest landlocked country, The Greater Chernobyl Cause has been saving the lives of innocent, vulnerable children for two decades.
Its slogan that “every child deserves a childhood” has been the driving force in turning a shambolic orphanage described as “ a living hell hole” into a home for children where at last, they can properly shelter from the Arctic conditions and undergo proper therapy for a range of genetic disabilities.
Today, the mortality rate has fallen dramatically.
There’s a kitchen where nutritious meals are prepared, a gym where they can exercise, teachers to give them a basic education and doctors and therapists to attend to their very real medical needs.
Yet, this is where the challenge lies. So successful has the charity’s work become, that other children are desperate to find a place there and the Charity’s founder Fiona Corcoran, cannot face the prospect of having to turn them away.
"So the fight goes on – tirelessly and determinedly."
A new extension is planned and it won’t come cheap.
Fiona says that the charity needs to fundraise in the region of €300,000.
Ms Corcoran says their survival is crucial because of the nature of the work they do.
"We are desperate for your help as we need to continue to be a glimmer of light in the darkness of so many vulnerable lives”.
Our charity has always shown strength in the face of adversity but we are now facing most daunting challenges as donations run out. Together, we can make a difference and bring help, hope and healing in a hurting world. Please give whatever you can to save this project. We need to be there for those who need us."
Donations can be made through the charity’s website www.greaterchernobylcause.ie or by posting a cheque to The Greater Chernobyl Cause Unit 4 Southside Industrial Estate Pouladuff Rd Togher Cork.