Japanese doctors give health checkups to A-bomb survivors in South America

by Junji Akechi, Staff Writer

A group of Japanese doctors, who visited five countries in South America to provide health checkups to A-bomb survivors (hibakusha), held a press conference at the Hiroshima Prefectural Government on October 23. The doctors were dispatched to South America by the prefectures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and they examined 85 people during the trip of October 4~20. The doctors commented that, since many hibakusha are unable to travel to venues providing medical exams, owing to their advancing age, the current system for health checkups must be revised and the general treatment for survivors in these locales must be improved.

In two separate teams, the doctors visited a total of seven cities in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Peru. The average age of the people they examined was 74.5 years old and many of them showed such symptoms as high-blood pressure, hyperlipemia, and diabetes. One person was found to be suffering from stomach cancer and several others were suspected of having lung cancer. Further examinations and appropriate treatments were then arranged for these patients.

Makoto Matsumura, 59, the delegation leader and the executive director of the Hiroshima Prefectural Medical Association, spoke of the smooth cooperation with local medical facilities in a range of ways, such as securing doctors for the checkups. In this light, Mr. Matsumura remarked that the understanding of the local people in regard to medical treatment for A-bomb survivors has grown.

According to the Hiroshima Prefectural Government, there are 180 to 190 hibakusha in those five countries, but less than half received checkups this time. Kenichi Arita, 59, another delegation leader, observed, “We need to develop a better system so that more hibakusha can receive health checkups. One way to realize this goal is to increase the number of venues for checkups.”

Providing health checkups in South America is part of the Japanese government’s effort to assist A-bomb survivors residing outside Japan, and has been implemented almost every other year since 1985. At the press conference, it was reported that there is a stronger demand for free checkups at least once a year. The Hiroshima Prefectural Government and other organizations plan to pressure the Japanese government to meet the needs of these hibakusha.

(Originally published on October 24, 2008)

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