Effective response key in reducing impacts of Chernobyl-like disasters: UN official

Effective response key in reducing impacts of Chernobyl-like disasters: UN official

A top United Nations official today said an effective emergency response mechanism was essential in lessening the impact of technological disasters like the Chernobyl catastrophe.

Speaking in Kiev at the opening of a three-day conference to draw lessons from the 1986 Chernobyl accident, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kenzo Oshima, said well-trained and well-equipped emergency personnel "can make a difference." In order to reduce the vulnerability of the population to future accidents, he stressed, governments and communities must continue to commit resources to emergency preparedness.

As part of his presentation, Mr. Oshima read a message on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in which Mr. Annan stressed the need for "solidarity, transparency and understanding" to deal with industrial accidents and other types of emergencies.

Mr. Oshima, who also serves as UN Coordinator for International Cooperation on Chernobyl, said enormous resources were still required to address the social, economic, health, environmental and psychosocial effects of the accident. He also stressed the importance of educating populations at risk about the actual effects of radiation, noting that his office had focused its efforts on raising awareness of current "Chernobyl-related" needs.

In light of the need for a more developmental or "long-term" approach to the problems afflicting Chernobyl, Mr. Oshima said the UN would undertake a new strategy, which would include an inter-agency assessment to provide the information necessary for agencies to develop programmes tailored to the needs of the affected communities.