As survivors continue to age 75 years after war’s end, number of A-bomb Survivor’s Certificate holders dips below 140,000

by Yo Kono, Staff Writer

On July 1, a report from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare revealed that 136,682 A-bomb survivors were in possession of an A-bomb Survivor’s Certificate as of the end of March 2020, dipping below 140,000. Their average age was a record-high 83.31, an increase of 0.66 years. As the summer of the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings approaches, one clear challenge is how subsidies for such individuals can be enhanced to meet their medical and elderly-care needs.

The ministry compiled certificate-holder data managed by the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as by all prefectures throughout Japan. Over the past 12 months, the number of certificate holders decreased by 9,162 individuals from the previous year’s number of 145,844, as of the end of March 2019. The current figure only accounts for 36.7 percent of the largest-ever number of certificate holders of 372,264, which was recorded at the end of March 1981. Of the current certificate holders, 2,887 live overseas. The average age of the certificate holders exceeded 83 years for the first time.

The number of certificate holders managed by the A-bombed city of Hiroshima is 44,836, a decline of 2,796 individuals year over year, with an average age of 82.82, an increase of 0.66 years from a year ago.

Hiroshima Prefecture managed an additional 16,959 certificate holders as of the end of March this year, a decline of 1,434 compared to the same period last year, with an average age of 85.05, an increase of 0.53 years from a year earlier. With the decrease in number of A-bomb survivors and their continued aging, the challenge is how to pass down their tragic experiences to later generations with the aim of making clear progress toward the realization of a world without nuclear weapons.

Among survivors nationwide who receive government subsidies, 114,308 receive health care allowances of 34,970 yen per month, which are paid to those who have designated diseases, a decrease of 7,533 individuals from the year before. The number of recipients of special medical subsidies of 142,170 yen per month, which are paid to survivors who are certified as suffering from A-bomb-related diseases, declined by 246 individuals to 7,023.

Regarding special medical subsidies, A-bomb survivors’ groups have called on the government to fundamentally review the A-bomb disease certification system, which specifies the payment conditions for such subsidies. The national government’s response to this demand is certain to be carefully watched.

(Originally published on July 2, 2020)