Making Networks in Nagano and Fukushima: A group of evacuees from Fukushima have started a recuperation support group to protect children
The Chairperson of “Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation”, Sachiko Sato, made a speech at the kickoff event for “Sihshu Network for Saving Children from Radiation” in March 2013. She mentioned the difficulties with promoting recuperation and decontamination of the habitat areas.
Congratulations on starting of “Shinshu Network for Saving Children from Radiation” Thank you very much for giving me this occasion to deliver my speech to you today.
Evacuation and Decontamination
I have for 30 years made my living from the soil in Kawamata City of Fukushima Prefecture. I have raised five children in the countryside and we have continued to stand on our own feet. But I could not continue this after the nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011. We could not recover anything that we had before, anyway, I have tried to think about and find out the best way to struggle with these difficulties for two years.
At the beginning, there were many people who did not know how to do and what to do, because there was no information. But fortunately I had studied something about the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster and l was aware of the risks that we were running, with the Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima. I decided to evacuate all our children that were in Fukushima at that time, right in the middle of the night of March 11, 2011 immediately after the earthquake, to Yamagata Prefecture. However, there were just a few people that could make such a decision, so almost all of the people remained here and they were forced to stay in Fukushima for various reasons. This situation is still ongoing, even after 2 years have passed.
Many people have asked me, “Why do people keep their children in places with such high radiation level?” Probably you will be able to understand the reason by just coming here and listening to the stories of mothers. There are many and various reasons that prevent them from moving away.
In my case, I have assumed the position of chief director of a Non Profit Organization, and I manage the office for dispatching some domestic helpers, so I could not evacuate; it would have signified abandoning all my responsibilities.
Even though it is being said that there’s no immediate risk for one’s health by radiation, I believe that damage will surely occur, sooner or later. It happens that people will not understand each other’s views, specifically different conceptions related to radiation risks. Such differences of opinion divide family members, local communities, schools and workplaces. People differ. I believe there is an acute risk for damage to one’s health. After 2 years, this situation still remains, it is far from settled and it is getting worse.
A family who has elected to stay there has this message for the mothers who have evacuated with their children: “For how long do you intend to stay there for evacuation? Come home. Now here is all right because the decontamination work is done.”
Do you believe that this decontamination work is really making progress?
In my town, Kawauchi-cho, the decontamination was begun last year. I went to the town office to ask for resources for children’s recuperation, since they seem to have resources to cover this decontamination work. Just now there’s nobody in my house. So I told them there’s no need to proceed with the decontamination work on my house. But they said to me it would harm my neighbours and to people who may pass in front of my house, so they had to proceed with this decontamination work.
Even if they perform the decontamination on the surroundings of my house, a zone of only 5 meters, the total dosage of radiation would not diminish. I think it is useless work. But there are some people who want this decontamination done even if it would make the dosage even slightly reduced. Although the level of radiation would go down, the very high dosage can at best only be halved. I believe that you’ve already heard that the dosage of radiation has temporarily been halved, but it will later return to the same levels as before. Among my neighbours there was nobody who did not evacuate at the very beginning. Later they may think that the problem is over, because the dosage of radiation was reduced to half through the decontamination work. In such a situation it is difficult for us to make the neighbours pay attention to our appeals, bringing forth the necessity to evacuate the children or let the children recuperate in another place.
The difficulty to deliver the information about the recuperation
We would like to promote the recuperation programme for children but there are fewer ways to deliver such information to parents or mothers. Some mothers who can get some information through internet are desperately trying to find a place where they can send their children for recuperation, or to find safer food. But in general, there are few mothers who access information by internet in Fukushima prefecture. Most mothers get the information only through newspapers, TV, the school’s communications and leaflets published by local administrations.
Unfortunately, these media give no information that tells of the necessity to do the recuperation for children, or else newspapers rarely report about children of Fukushima prefecture going out of the Fukushima Prefecture for the recuperation programme. Recently, the national broadcaster NHK reported the news that the children from Fukushima had helped to clean the recuperation centre of Sado island in Niigata Prefecture, but this was broadcast only through the Fukushima Prefecture local network. Later the NHK broadcast this report in the Fukushima Prefecture, but had then edited out the most important part, where one child was saying “I would like to invite my friends to this place where there’s no radiation.”
In our Fukushima prefecture, the broadcasts may unfortunately be transformed in this way. Then in our circumstances, the broadcast goes on to tell that there is no risk of radiation in Fukushima prefecture; the safety and reconstruction campaign is promoted anywhere, in various ways. Therefore, we always try to find the best way to deliver the correct information. We, Fukushima Network of for Saving Children, publish the “Tangara” Newspaper but it is quite difficult to distribute it among the population of Fukushima prefecture.
Furthermore, we are trying to deliver the information about the recuperation programme through the local administration or schools; but it is difficult to deliver this newspaper to all schools. We currently try to deliver it at least to some schools where high dosages of radiation have been found.
Also it is difficult to make the mothers understand the importance of this programme, even if the civil organizations suggest doing so. Some children with mothers that understand the importance of recuperation go for it, but those children whose mothers do not realize the importance of recuperation have never even got the occasion to go to the recuperation programme. There are many children like this.
Administration and the general public work together
It is therefore, from the part of civilian organization, very important to offer the recuperation programme, but we would like the local or national administration to take the initiative to promote the recuperation programme as a part of the school programme. Last year one school took initiative to let children study in Niigata Prefecture as a part of school programme, called “mobile school”. This is great progress. I hope that other schools will make similar decisions, after being informed of this programme. There is another example: one junior high school has let the students participate in recuperation as a club activity. If the teacher advisory understands the importance of recuperation, students can go out from the Fukushima Prefecture at least by way of away games. I think that it’s necessary to build a system that can send more children to recuperation programmes, through all available channels.
We came to know that the Ukrainian government, after the accident of Chernobyl, took care of the children’s recuperation programme for 1 to 2 months to discharge the radioactive materials from the children’s body. I hope that the Japanese administration will take similar initiatives and I expect some positive progress from the Victims Protection Law. This law was approved last year, although as yet no budget has been given. Hundreds of millions of yen are already appropriated for reconstruction and decontamination work instead of for recuperation for children. I hope that the Japanese government will utilize the resource for evacuation and recuperation programme, not for decontamination work from now on. The government tells us that they can make a budget on the basis of our request from Fukushima Prefecture. So we have addressed a petition to the prefecture assembly asking them to submit a remark-comment, urging the government to establish the basic policy for Victims Protection Law. When we went to submit our petition, we also asked some assembly members to subscribe a petition. We finally got some subscriptions of assembly members from all parties. It is the first time that assembly members from all parties have signed the same petition. We are very pleased that these assembly members have considered this issue very important.
We also have addressed a petition to every municipality of Fukushima Prefecture. In Koriyama City this petition was adopted. We hope that other municipalities will adopt this petition, too. We believe that citizens and the administration should tackle this issue to protect the children together (unifying). I think that the effort to protect the children so far is too much lagging behind, but it’s very important that this issue be tackled from now on, so we would like to collaborate with administrations as much as possible.
Now, thinking about the children’s future, we should take action for not only the Fukushima children but also for the children of all Japan. If the children are in bad health, what will happen to our country? I would like to do my best as an adult. I believe that there’s no other hope than ensuring the good health of children.
Translated by WNSCR team