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    United Nations
    Economic and Social Council

    NGO in Consultative Status (Category II) with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

    Statement submitted by the
    World Federation of Ukrainian Women's Organizations,
    non-governmental organization in special consultative status
    with the Economic and Social Council to the
    Commission on the Status of Women
    March 1, 1999


    Agenda Item: Women and Health
    Chornobyl's Disastrous Effect on Women's Health

    Thirteen years after the greatest technologically induced human disaster of the 20th century, the after-effects of Chornobyl's nuclear meltdown continue to multiply for millions of children, women and men in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. The ruthless enemy in this case is nuclear radiation - it is invisible, unpredictable and deadly.

    The destructive influence of exposure to radiation on the health of women of reproductive age and children has been well-documented by scientists showing that there is a serious threat of irreversible and continuous deterioration of the genetic pool in this region. Female adolescents and women of reproductive age who reside within areas with long term exposure to even small doses of radiation have significant shifts in structure of gynecological morbidity. Especially noteworthy is an increased number of internal genital inflammatory diseases, which could be connected with immune system disorders followed by significant changes in menstrual cycles. The rate of sterility and benign tumors have significantly increased in the last years. Of great concern is the health of infants and their mothers: more than 70% of pregnant women have obstetric and extra-genital pathology, almost 65% of the deliveries are complicated especially with bleeding, with 70% of the infants being born with various disorders.

    Birth rates have dropped significantly leading to a negative population growth in this region. Also, the continuous unfavorable ecological environment in these countries will result in an increase of genetic disorders and cause accumulation of pathologic mutations. There is a statistically significant increase of chromosome aberrations of various types observed in examined groups of children that live in contaminated areas and there is tendency to continual growth of cytogenetic effect with time. This demonstrates a continuation of the mutagenetic effect of long term exposure to low intensity radiation. This fact, along with other ecological and economic concerns has a negative influence on family planning, since many young people now fear having children and facing unspeakable tragedy in the case of biological aberrations. The radiation factor and its consequences hang over them like a "black cloud", producing not only physical, but also severe psychological stress and depression.

    The men, women and children of this region reside in what the world regards as a living laboratory, but in fact is a living hell that needs more attention from the world's scientists and medical communities. A great deal of study and research of the effects and consequences of this disaster are still necessary today, just as the surviving population remains in need of immediate help and relief from its suffering.

    The General Assembly has called for strengthening of international cooperation and coordination of efforts to study, mitigate and minimize the consequences of the Chornobyl disaster. The legacy of Chornobyl will remain with us for many generations and continues to deserve serious attention from the global community. Not only must we examine the after-effects of this disaster, not only must we rally to the aid of the individuals who are most directly harmed by it, but we must also look to the future and see how we can prevent the recurrence of yet another Chornobyl.

    The world we live in today requires power for its very existence. Nuclear power may for some appear to be a safe and efficient source of energy, but efficiency at the expense of human lives is too high a price to pay. When governments ignore the cost of "progress" with respect to their population, when there is an almost criminal disregard for human life as in the case of the victims of Chornobyl, then we must search for new solutions and reexamine our responsibility to humanity.

    We recognize that women who are the foundation of future generations suffer the greatest long term effects of radiation poisoning as well as chemical and industrial waste pollution and therefore, we respectfully request that the Commission on the Status of Women take specific action to urge governments to place a heavy emphasis on safety when any new technology is developed or old technology is used. Because this is a global threat and not just a local problem, we also request that the governments of the world allocate adequate resources to safeguard the Chornobyl nuclear facility and continue to decontaminate the air, soil and water in that area as much as possible.

    The consequences of the Chornobyl disaster must be regarded as a signal to the world that greater consideration must be given to the health effects of the use of nuclear power, feasibility of a repetition of the disaster, and preparedness and responsiveness of governments should the world again witness such a terrible event.



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