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Wednesday 11 December 2019

Kiev crisis halts Chernobyl charity's €3m surgery plan

Adi Roche (right), pictured with Ali Hewson, said it broke her heart to put her charity's heart surgery programme on hold due to violence in the Ukraine
Adi Roche (right), pictured with Ali Hewson, said it broke her heart to put her charity's heart surgery programme on hold due to violence in the Ukraine

Alyson Henry

AN IRISH humanitarian aid agency has been forced to cut its €3m heart surgery programme for the children in Chernobyl due to increasing riots and violent demonstrations in Ukraine.

CEO of Chernobyl Children International (CCI), Adi Roche, said the decision to put the programme on hold was "deeply distressing", and that the impact of this may mean even longer waiting lists for vital-life saving operations.

Ahead of today's EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxemburg, Ms Roche, has spoken with EU officials to see whether or not humanitarian funding can be made available to the programme at this time of crisis.

The €3m spent so far on establishing and maintaining the programme has been raised entirely in Ireland by CCI donors and volunteer fundraising activities.

All operations that had been scheduled for the next month at the "open heart" surgery programme in the Regional Hospital in Kharkiv have been suspended until the situation stabilises.

RACE

Ms Roche said the reality is that one in every four children diagnosed with the 'Chernobyl heart' will die before they reach the age of six. She said this means the "programmes we organise and fund each year are really a race against time".

She stressed that the situation between Russia and Ukraine was so serious the surgery programme had no choice but to temporarily suspend all procedures, but that "teams of surgeons" are standing by in the US and Canada "waiting to travel".

For the past 10 years, the programme has been treating a significant portion of the 6,000 Ukrainian children born with genetic heart diseases every year. Many of these conditions, known as the 'Chernobyl heart', have been linked to the radiation leaks from the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident in 1986.

Dr Novick, whose pioneering surgery featured in the 2003 Academy Award-winning film 'Chernobyl Heart', said: "It is a shame that politics is once again negatively impacting on the medical care of children to the point where lives may be lost not because of bullets but simply because nationalistic ego's prevent these children from receiving adequate care."

Irish Independent

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