Adi Roche, voluntary CEO and founder of Chernobyl Children International, is to make a landmark address on Chernobyl to the UN General Assembly in New York next Tuesday.
She has been invited to speak at a special session of the United Nations' General Assembly convened to mark the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
In an unprecedented move the Belarusian government is to provide speaking time at the General Assembly discussion to Adi Roche in recognition of the international role that Ireland and the Chernobyl Children International charity has played in helping the victims of the Chernobyl catastrophe.
This is the first time an NGO (non government organisation) has been extended the honour of speaking at the UN General Assembly during a country’s allocated time.
Belarus has asked Adi Roche to be the lead speaker during their time, which has been allocated to her so she can give her own first-hand account of the impact the world’s worst nuclear accident has had on millions of people in Belarus and neighbouring countries.
Chernobyl Children International is the only UN recognised NGO working in the area.
Originally from Western Park, Clonmel and now living in Cork, Adi Roche described the invitation as “the greatest possible honour to speak on the highest world stage about an issue that has been my life’s work”.
In her address she will draw particular attention to the heroism, the plight and the continuing needs of the 700,000 Chernobyl “Liquidators”.
These were the soldiers and civilians; the helicopter pilots, the firemen, the miners and the engineers who were sent to Chernobyl to undertake the deadly task of trying to contain the leaking radiation from the crippled nuclear reactor.
Many died; others have had to live with radiation-induced lifelong illnesses and almost all struggle with medical, psychological and financial difficulties.
Last week, on her 30th visit to the still radioactive contaminated “zones of alienation” around Chernobyl Adi Roche again met groups of the “Liquidators” whose actions in the first 48 hours after the explosion saved Europe from an even greater nuclear disaster.
They appealed to her to bring their stories and their voices to the United Nations and she said she would be upholding that pledge to them.
During the General Assembly session Ms Roche will make a special appeal for additional global support to help meet their ongoing health care needs.
She will also press for the speedy completion of the $1.5 billion sarcophagus (a box-like funeral receptacle) that is being built to make Chernobyl safe for the next 100 years.
Ireland has contributed €8 million to this fund. 40 countries and international agencies are funding this massive project, which has been delayed many times.
“On this, the 30th anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in history, it is a chilling reminder that the effects of this catastrophic nuclear accident are far from over”, she said.
“The radioactive contamination is still having an adverse effect on the lives and health of the people of the Chernobyl regions.
For many people 30 years ago is like reading ancient history- however for the victims it remains an unfolding tragedy.”
New research shows that the rate of thyroid cancer has almost doubled since 2000 among children of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.
“Chernobyl is not something from the past; Chernobyl 'was forever', Chernobyl 'is forever'.
The impact of that single shocking nuclear accident can never be undone. Its radioactive footprint is embedded in our world forever”, she added.