CHILDREN born in the aftermath of the worst nuclear accident the world has ever seen are still feeling the effects over 20 years after it happened and future generations will not be able to escape its legacy.

Youngsters in Belarus breathe in infected air and eat infected food every day but just one month away from their country could add two years to their lives and people in Hampshire and Dorset could help them to do this.

The Ringwood Silver Birch branch of the charity Chernobyl Children's Lifeline is in desperate need of people who are willing to open their homes to a child from the eastern European country for just a month this summer.

Charity chairman Sue Molden said: "They are eating food grown in their own gardens and the ground will be contaminated for years. If you are a parent with the choice to not feed your child or to give them food from contaminated ground you really have no choice.

"The contamination is being pushed into their bodies and what we do is build up their immune systems. It makes a huge difference to these children and it is so rewarding for the host families."

The children stay with a host family in the UK for a month and are given health treatment and foods to build up their systems as well as being taken on trips and excursions that they would never be able to experience at home.

The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 saw a reactor explode at the plant in the Ukraine, sending radioactive fallout over a huge area of eastern Europe, with 60 per cent of the plume landing in Belarus.

Controversy has raged ever since about how many deaths can be attributed to the aftermath of the accident, with some estimates placing the number of related cancer death in the region of tens of thousands but others insisting there is no proof this is the case.

There are branches of Chernobyl Children's Lifeline all over the country and tens of thousands of children have benefited from its work not just for health reasons but also as a respite from the poverty in which many live in their own homes.

Silver Birch is looking for host families from around Hampshire and Dorset who can open their home to a child in June/July this year.

Anyone who can help can contact Mrs Molden on (01425) 480251.