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Hiroshima accepts narrower eligibility for hibakusha aid

  • December 24, 2021
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 6:30 p.m.
  • English Press

Hiroshima officials accepted the central government’s proposed guidelines that scale back who can receive health care benefits provided to atomic bomb survivors in the hopes of an early resolution to the issue.


Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki and Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui announced their decisions for acceptance on Dec. 24.


The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on Dec. 23 presented the prefectural and city governments with new draft guidelines that define the eligibility requirements for receiving atomic bomb survivors’ certificates and state health care benefits.


The guidelines reintroduced a controversial condition previously presented by the ministry that narrows eligibility, despite a high court ruling in favor of dropping it. It requires that applicants must have developed any of the 11 illnesses designated by the central government to become eligible for the benefits.


The Hiroshima High Court ruled in July that all 84 plaintiffs exposed to radioactive “black rain” outside of the state-recognized zone following the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima are entitled to the same benefits as those given to hibakusha who were in the zone.


Before the ruling, the central government had limited the recipients of state health care benefits to atomic bomb survivors who were in the zone.


But the high court ruling said anyone exposed to the black rain should be recognized as hibakusha regardless of whether they have developed certain diseases.


Following the ruling, then-Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga issued a statement saying he decided not to appeal the high court decision. The ministry then began discussions with the Hiroshima prefectural and city governments, as well as those of Nagasaki, to draft new guidelines.


Suga had vowed the central government would also “act swiftly” to provide redress for “people under circumstances similar to the plaintiffs.”


In its latest proposed guidelines, the ministry defined those circumstances as “having been exposed to the black rain,” which includes cases where it cannot deny the possibility that applicants suffered exposure judging from their own accounts.


But the guidelines require applicants to have developed any of the designated 11 diseases, such as cancer and cataracts, or have previously undergone cataract surgery.


A ministry official said the ministry cannot make all those who have been exposed to the black rain eligible for the benefits as ruled by the high court since Suga called the ruling unacceptable in his statement.


The Hiroshima prefectural and city governments had pressed the ministry to drop the criteria for having certain illnesses during their discussions.


But sources said the local governments plan to accept the new draft guidelines as most of those who have been exposed to the black rain will likely be recognized as hibakusha.


The ministry aims to start enforcing the new guidelines in April.


(This article was written by Tabito Fukutomi and Hiraku Higa.)


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