Wednesday 12 December 2018

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Surgeons helping babies in Ukraine

Wednesday, 5th December, 2018 4:57pm

Cork based Chernobyl Children International is sending a team of surgeons into strife-torn Ukraine this weekend to save babies as young as one day old.

While the charity says that getting into Kharkiv will be okay, getting home will be problem as martial law was recently declared in the region.

The charity’s CEO Adi Roche told the Cork Independent: “We think we have a small window and the window is this weekend.”

She said there are risks involved in the mission as the atmosphere in Ukraine is still very volatile, but the team has assessed the situation and feel that it is extremely important to continue the work it has been doing in the cities of Kiev and Kharkiv for the past 14 years.

She added: “We can get the team of surgeons in but we cannot guarantee that we will get them home to their families at Christmas because nobody has a crystal ball to predict how it may escalate.

Since 2004, Irish charity Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International (CCI) has funded operations for over 4,000 children and babies in Ukraine. Known as the 'Grandchildren of Chernobyl' these vulnerable children have all been born with complex congenital heart defects which scientists and the 'flying doctors' team believe are inextricably linked to the Chernobyl explosion. Many of these innocent children have been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition known as ‘Chernobyl Heart’, which can only be rectified by the direct intervention of open-heart surgery.

Ms Roche continued: “The safety of our volunteer surgeons is of primary importance to us, however we cannot turn our backs on the children who so desperately need these operations.

“The reality is that one in every four children diagnosed with the heart defect known as Chernobyl Heart will die before they reach the age of six – so the programmes we organise and fund each year are really a race against time.

“Our flagship programme is based in Kharkiv, which is now under martial law and violence has increased dramatically over the past week. It is very worrying.”

Adi explained in that in recent days and weeks, tensions have heightened in Ukraine as a conflict with Russian forces has escalated.

She added: “Martial Law has been enforced in much of Ukraine, prompting an escalation of the four-year conflict which has had a devastating impact on many families who were still battling the fallout of Chernobyl. In 2014, increased violence and tensions forced CCI to twice-suspend life-saving surgeries for Chernobyl’s youngest victims.”

The volunteer surgeons donate their time, expertise and supplies which reduces the cost of each operation to €1,000. Since 1986, Chernobyl Children International have delivered €105 million worth of aid delivered to impoverished communities and children across the Chernobyl affected regions of Belarus and Ukraine. To donate visit chernobyl-international.com.

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