Every summer hundreds of children from countries affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident spend a few weeks in the Czech Republic on therapeutic stays. These stays are organized and financed by the Czech-Russian society, the Health Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Czech Compatriots’ Association, the UNESCO Chernobyl programme and a number of private sponsors. These curative stays have been organized since 1991, shortly after the idea to help children from the areas affected by the accident was first proposed. This happened during then-president Václav Havel’s visit to Ukraine.
The main goal of these therapeutic or curative stays is to boost the children’s immunity system, which is often very weak. Many of them have respiratory problems and thyroid-gland problems, they suffer from allergies, malnutrition, anemia and many others post-radiation complications. The curative effect of the stay is based on physiotherapy, with an emphasis on an active outdoor life and the children are taught a variety of rehabilitation exercises. They are also given music therapy and taught to play the flute. The programme includes sightseeing trips around the Czech Republic, during which the children make new friends with Czech children of their age and take part in various competitions and cultural events. They can bathe in the local lakes and pick blueberries in the forest. In their country picking forest fruit is still forbidden because of persisting contamination. These therapeutic stays in the clean environment of the Rychleby Mountains, or other regions of the Czech Republic, have proved extremely beneficial. Past experience has shown that for at least the next six months the children are more resilient, their immunity is stronger and they are in a more positive frame of mind. These children are often from socially weak or incomplete families, where one of the parents died in consequence of the Chernobyl accident.
At present, 100 000 people living in contaminated areas in the vicinity of Chernobyl still receive a higher dose of radiation than the limit recommended for the general public. It is difficult to tell precisely the number of deaths – past and future – attributable to the Chernobyl accident, because people who have been exposed to low levels of radiation often die from the same causes as unexposed people.
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