Cuba’s Chernobyl Treatment Program

In April 26, 1986, the world saw another tragedy of epic scale due to nuclear power. Reactor 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant had failed during a stress test and leaked out radioactive material that spread throughout western Soviet Union and some of Europe, tainting milk, grain and meat and changed the lives of countless of people.

Cuba played a role in helping the victims of the Chernobyl crisis. They set up a treatment program in the beach resort town of Tarara. It had once been used as a summer camp for Cuban schoolchildren, but now is completely devoted to these children. Even 30 years later.

Those that are born in these affected areas of Eastern Europe, years after the disaster, still suffer physical consequences. Thyroid hyperplasia, vitiligo, and alopecia are the most common diseases found in these children and often need permanent special care.

The camp was originally arranged to serve 10,000 children at a time, but because the private Ukrainian group that pays for the transportation is often short on funds, the number of children never goes beyond 200.

But since it’s installment in 1990, there have been over 18,000 Ukrainian children treated at the Tarara facility.

“It’s a very attractive place for these kids who have suffered and are suffering,” Vilma Espin, Cuba’s First Lady, once said during a 1990 interview, “and we’re very proud of the chance to help them.”

Despite the Soviet’s fall, Cuba has kept its bargain with the Ukrainian government: Ukraine covers transportation, while Cuba covers room, board, schooling, and medical services. This puts Cuba’s expenses at more than $20 million a year.

But despite the cost, they have no plans to close it.

“Many people who are unaware of our ideals still wonder what Cuba might be after,” Dr Julio Medina, general co-ordinator of the programme, recently told the Cuban newspaper Granma: “It is simple: we do not give what we have in excess; we share all that we have.”



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