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Japanese nongovernmental organizations on Friday called on the government of Belarus to make further efforts to facilitate their aid activities in the former Soviet republic, where millions still suffer from aftereffects of the 1986 Chernobyl accident in neighboring Ukraine.

In particular, many participants requested easier and more secure customs procedures for supplies they bring into the country.

At the Conference of Japan-Belarus Chernobyl Humanitarian Aid Organizations, sponsored by the embassy of Belarus in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, many participants also mentioned last month’s criticality accident in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, saying Japan had failed to learn a lesson from Chernobyl.

Representatives of 16 groups participated in the conference, which was the first of its kind, according to the Belarus Embassy.

The groups have been engaged in helping Belarusians suffering from radiation-related illness. Their activities include sending medical personnel and equipment as well as inviting sick Belarusian children to Japan for short recuperation stays.

About 22 percent of the Belarusian territory was subjected to radioactive contamination after the April 1986 accident, and 131,200 of the country’s 8 million residents were displaced, according to the Belarus government.

About one in four Belarusians is said to be suffering from the aftereffects, with about 900,000 children hardest-hit. Of particular concern is thyroid cancer, for which 400 children have undergone surgery, according to a government survey.

One participant complained that Belarusian customs officers confiscated 5 million vitamin pills the group brought for the sick, even though they had secured written permission for the shipment.

Ambassador Petr Krauchanka, who attended the conference, said he would do his best to work for the Belarusian government to create an environment more friendly to the groups’ activities, while thanking them for their contributions.

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