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Pope gives medical aid to Ukraine hospital

Pope John Paul II has donated medical equipment to a Ukraine hospital to set up a children's surgery, the Vatican said this week.

The donation to the Kiev hospital comes less than two weeks before a papal visit to the country.

With this gesture, the Holy Father wants to show his closeness to sick Ukrainian children, in particular to those who are suffering the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe, Vatican Spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said in a statement.

More than 11,000 children became ill with thyroid cancer after the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant and medical experts think the incidence of cancer and other disabling diseases will continue to rise in the region.

The equipment, which will be used to set up a paediatric surgery, was presented to the hospital at a ceremony yesterday.

The Pope begins a five-day visit on 23 June.