Officials from Belarus met at Direct Relief’s Headquarters in California on Friday to sign an agreement that will greatly increase the amount of cancer therapies shipped into the country.
The agreement, which was signed by Dr. Viachaslau Shyla, Deputy Minister of Health of Belarus, and Thomas Tighe, Direct Relief President and CEO, will primarily support the N.N. Alexandrov Center for Oncology and Medical Radiology and the Minsk City Oncological Clinic.
Belarus, a country of 9.5 million people, bears a high burden of cancer. The catastrophic 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine created both immediate and long-term health consequences, not only for Ukraine, but for the bordering nation of Belarus. To this day, the Belarusian healthcare system bears the burden of the radioactive fallout as it works to handle an increase in related cancer cases.
As a result, the Belarusian government established the Department of Humanitarian Activity, which serves as a liaison to organizations like Direct Relief that can provide specialized oncology medications to Belarusian patients in need.
In addition to the signing, the delegation also toured the organization’s 155,000-square-foot distribution center and discussed ongoing and planned activities in Belarus. Included in the delegation, in addition to the Deputy Minister, were Mr. Pavel Shidlovsky, Charge d’Affaires, a.i. of Belarus in the U.S.; Dr. Sergey Polyakov, Head of Department of Oncological Urology at the N.N. Alexandrov National Cancer Centre of Belarus; Dr. Florin Ciuriuc, Honorary Consul Designate of Belarus in California; Valentin Kalinowski and Johnny Dale Ciuriuc.
To date, Direct Relief has delivered $3 million in enzyme replacement therapy to the Center of Pediatric Oncology, Hematology, and Immunology in Minsk, and Friday’s agreement signals support for an increase in the coming months.