Nuclear Threat Draws WHO and Civil Society Closer
GENEVA, May 5 (IPS) – The global health agency and a network of
non-governmental organisations opposed to nuclear proliferation
have resumed their dialogue, prompted by concern over the effects
of the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima in Japan and the enduring
consequences of the explosion at Chernobyl, in Ukraine.
Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO),
met Wednesday with representatives of a group of NGOs who are
harshly critical of the United Nations agency’s policies on the
health hazards of nuclear radiation.
The coalition, "IndependentWHO", presented Chan with demands
for the adoption of measures for dealing with possible nuclear
accidents like the Mar. 11 events at Fukushima and the Apr. 26,
1986 disaster in Chernobyl, in Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet
Civil society wants to see urgent measures to provide medical
care, treatment and adequate protection for the people who live
in regions contaminated with radioactivity. The activists also
want WHO and other international agencies to ensure these people
have the right kind of food to encourage rapid elimination of
radioactive substances from their bodies.
Another of their proposals is the creation of a commission on
ionising radiation and health, made up of independent experts,
to carry out scientific research on the long-term health effects
of the Chernobyl accident.
No member of the proposed commission should have any interests,
financial or otherwise, with the nuclear industry or any
associations linked with it, the coalition specified, calling for
the commission to deliver a report at the 2014 World Health
Assembly, the decision-making body of WHO.
The commission should organise working groups devoted to
evaluating and describing the gaps that have remained in
research on the effects of radiation on health.
The coalition is also requesting the publication of the minutes
of conferences in Geneva in 1995 and in Kiev in 2001 about the
consequences of the Chernobyl accident. The activists claim the
documents have not been released in order to protect the
interests of the nuclear industry.
Furthermore, the civil society group is calling for the
amendment of the 1959 agreement between WHO and the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world’s centre of
cooperation in the nuclear field, so that WHO is given full
responsibility as the primary coordinating body on issues related
to the health effects of ionising radiation.
Ionising radiation alters the physical state of atoms, the
electrically neutral component particles of matter, transforming
them into ions, which are electrically charged particles. The
ions damage the normal biological processes in living tissues.
The coalition’s main proposal was distributed to the diplomatic
missions of the countries represented in Geneva, but so far no
state has volunteered to move the proposal at the next World
The Cuban government has said it will second the motion if
another country takes the lead in proposing it, activist Alison
Katz of the People’s Health Movement told IPS. The Movement is an
NGO network that supports the People’s Charter for Health, a
declaration adopted by WHO in 1978 at the World Health Assembly
held in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan. (FIN/2011)