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Children can't get surgery because of Ukraine crisis, the Irish government is being asked to help

One in four children diagnosed with ‘Chernobyl Heart’ will die before the age of 6.

Image: mstyslavchernov.com via CCI

THE SITUATION IN Ukraine has forced a life-saving cardiac surgery programme for children with ‘Chernobyl Heart’ to be suspended.

Irish humanitarian aid agency Chernobyl Children International (CCI) has organised and funded the surgery programme for the past 10 years.

Teams of surgeons from the US and Canada travel to Ukraine and Belarus six times a year to operate on the children.

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Brendan Smith has expressed his deep concern at the suspension of the programme over the escalating violence in the Ukraine.

“Chernobyl Children International has been doing fantastic work improving the quality of life of countless children in the Ukraine through this vital surgery programme”.

Smith called for the Irish government to lead the way in easing the crisis:

I am calling on the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Éamon Gilmore to intervene and do all he can to ensure that these life-saving surgeries can still go ahead.

“I join with Adi Roche, the CEO of Chernobyl Children International, in calling for Ireland to play a leading role in trying to find a way, with its European partners, of easing the political and military crisis in Ukraine”.

Chernobyl Heart

Every year 6,000 children are born with genetic heart diseases and defects in Ukraine.

Medical experts there say these conditions, some of which they describe as “Chernobyl Heart”, are linked to radiation leaks from the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident in 1986.

adi-roche-with-a-child-after-life-saving-cardiac-surgery Adi Roche with a child after life saving cardiac surgery.

The “open heart” surgery programme to save the lives of these children is a joint initiative between Ireland, Ukraine and the US.

CEO of Chernobyl Children International Adi Roche said that “riots and a worsening security situation has meant that the current series of operations which were due to be carried out this month have had to be suspended.

This is very tragic because there are long waiting lists for these vital life-saving operations.

“At the moment we have teams of surgeons standing by in the US and Canada waiting to travel to Kharkiv but we have been advised that the situation there is so unstable that their safety cannot be guaranteed and that the programme should be suspended for the time being.

The reality is that one in every four children diagnosed with the heart defect know 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.

Read: How my trip to a children’s mental asylum in Belarus made me proud to be Irish>

Read: Adi Roche optimistic about future of Belarusian adoptions>

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