Personal Views

Charity for Chernobyl?

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 27 April 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1107
  1. James Fraser,
  2. Richard Pullinger

    The media exposure about the children of Chernobyl generated a public outcry in Britain. Consciences were jarred, collecting tins were mobilised, and charities had a new cause to champion. At short notice in November 1995 we were approached by an ambulance authority to accompany its expedition to an orphanage in Belarus, 300 km from Chernobyl. The experience provided a valuable insight into humanitarian operations and may be helpful for other doctors who become involved in similar ventures.

    The orphanage had been associated with a British children's charity for some years. Surveyors had expressed concern about the safety of many of the buildings and one of the children's dormitories was thought to be in danger of collapse.

    The plan was to carry out emergency repairs to stabilise the building during the winter and to return the following year to rebuild as necessary. Three other organisations were involved—a major Scottish power company, a four wheel drive organisation, and a regional ambulance authority. Each had been inundated with donations and proudly displayed the logos of their sponsors on their vehicles. A convoy of eight Landrovers and one ambulance set out on the three day journey to Minsk, planning to spend one week at …

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