DOZENS of children from Belarus said farewell to the peninsula this week after spending a month enjoying good food and clean air with their Wirral hosts.

Belarus received 70% of the fall-out from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 20 years ago. The land was poisoned, possible for thousands of years, and the food chain contamination has had a damaging impact on the children.

Wirral members of the national charity Chernobyl Children's Lifeline have welcomed more than 500 youngsters from the stricken area over the last 10 years. Cynthia Hinton, who with her husband Peter is joint-chairman of the Wirral branch of the charity, said: "A month out of the contaminated environment of Belarus, breathing clean and eating uncontaminated food, boosts their immune system immensely.

"They eat well when they come here and the food they enjoy more than anything else is bananas. They are a big luxury which can cost the equivalent of £5 or £6m each in their own country." Fifty-one children from Eastern Europe 33 who stayed in Wirral hosts and 18 in South Liverpool went to a farewell party at Heswall Hall on Friday.

Mrs Hinton said: "They said a special thank-you to their hosts and to the generous people of Merseyside who contributed things such as toothpaste, brushes, toiletries and money."

Wirral's mayor Cllr Peter Johnson and his wife Mary, were special guests at the party.

Their son Sam married Victoria, a Belarus interpreter who accompanied the children on earlier visits. They married at St Peter's Church Heswall and have made their home in the town.