Living Legacy

Living Legacy

Image from Ukraine, Antonio Aragón Renuncio

Antonio Aragón Renuncio
Ukraine

Bogdančik, a 5-year-old boy with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) plays happily on his iPad while connected to the machine that allows him to breathe. Bogdančik is among the 377,589 children—and 1.5 million adult—“victims of Chernobyl” suffering from the effects of the 1986 meltdown at the nuclear plant. Born to mothers who themselves were only kids in 1986, the children suffer “a range of illnesses: respiratory, digestive, musculoskeletal, eye diseases, blood diseases, cancer, congenital malformations, genetic abnormalities, trauma.”

Among children in the region, UNICEF found a 38% increase in malignant tumors, 43% increase in blood circulatory illnesses, and 63% increase in bone, muscle, and connective tissue system disorders. Since 1986, birth defects have increased by 200% and congenital birth deformities have increased by 250%. Doctors in the surrounding regions have discovered cancer, tumors, and abnormalities not found anywhere else in the world. And. Because many diseases caused by radiation exposure take a long time to appear, perhaps it isn’t surprising that health continues to deteriorate. Between 1995 and 2018, the rate of disability has more than doubled. The National Research Center for Radiation Medicine in Ukraine estimates five million people may have suffered due to the Chernobyl disaster, but given the difficulties in tracking the victims over more than 30 years, this undoubtedly underestimates the true, and on-going, human toll.