Citizens’ group in Hiroshima provides support to Semipalatinsk for 10 years

by Masaki Kadowaki, Staff Writer

The Hiroshima Semipalatinsk Project, a Hiroshima-based citizens’ group, has been providing medical assistance to the radiation sufferers of Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, one of the nuclear test sites of the former Soviet Union. On November 22, they held a gathering to mark the 10th anniversary of the organization’s founding. About 30 people took part in the meeting in which they reported on their most recent trip to Semipalatinsk this past August and discussed their activities for 2009, the 60th anniversary of the first nuclear test conducted in Semipalatinsk.

During the visit to Kazakhstan in August, Japanese doctors examined 118 men and women between the ages of 40 and 77 who have had health concerns, such as inflammation of the thyroid gland. The doctors and laboratory technicians, based on findings derived from such tests as blood screenings and chromosome checks, stressed the need to provide medical technology and training on a continual basis.

Shintaro Hamamoto, 25, a part-time high school instructor and a member of “CANVaS,” which is a youth group associated with the Hiroshima Semipalatinsk Project, reported on a meeting held in Semipalatinsk with local high school and university students. One outcome of that discussion, said Mr. Hamamoto, is a plan to organize an international youth conference and an A-bomb exhibition in Semipalatinsk next August, in cooperation with the Japanese Embassy in Kazakhstan, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and other organizations.

To date, the Hiroshima Semipalatinsk Project has dispatched a total of about 100 people, mainly medical personnel, to Semipalatinsk and local villages. They have also provided relief supplies amounting to approximately 60 million yen and have been involved in hosting exchange students. From January to May of 2009, they will offer monthly classes on the history and culture of Kazakhstan at Kusatsu Community Hall in Hiroshima. Keiichi Sasaki, a representative of the organization, expressed his enthusiasm for the group’s future plans, remarking, “By building stronger ties with Semipalatinsk, we hope to raise awareness for nuclear abolition throughout the world.”

(Originally published on November 23, 2008)

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