Maria Sharapova marks Chernobyl 25th anniversary
Geneva, New York – Hundreds of thousands of people who lived and worked around the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident continue to suffer on the disaster’s 25th anniversary, commemorated on 26 April by Maria Sharapova, Russian tennis star and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador.
The disaster at Chernobyl, in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, was the worst ever nuclear power plant accident, releasing radioactive pollution into the atmosphere over much of Western Russia and Europe, and uprooting more than 200,000 people from the immediate surroundings of the plant.
“While the anniversary is filled with sadness, we also acknowledge that this is a time for hope,” said Sharapova in a global video message released today. “We are moving forward in building a better future for all those whose lives have been changed by this tragedy,” said Sharapova, born in 1987, and whose family was displaced from Gomel, one of the affected areas in Belarus.
At a visit to the Chernobyl site earlier this week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon drew parallels between the 1986 accident and the recent disaster at the Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture.
“We have learned lessons from these tragedies. We have to strengthen…nuclear safety standards both at national and international levels,” said the Secretary General, putting forward five urgent and concrete steps, including the need for a wide-ranging review of the current safety standards and strengthening the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Secretary General added that a sharper focus on the relationship between natural disasters and nuclear energy was necessary, as well as a review of the cost benefits of nuclear energy and importance of protecting nuclear technology from acts of terrorism.
Since 2004, the UNDP Administrator has served as the UN Coordinator of International Cooperation on Chernobyl which assists communities and authorities to improve local infrastructure, access to water, health care, and information technologies.
Access to essential information about health, the promotion of healthy lifestyles, with particular focus on youth, medical workers and school teachers, as well as development of entrepreneurship, have been at the core of the UN strategy.
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