Conference on humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons opens in Mexico

by Keiichiro Yamamoto, Staff Writer

Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico – The second conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons opened in Nuevo Vallarta in western Mexico on February 13. Discussions will be held on such themes as the impact of a nuclear weapon detonation on human health, the environment, and the economy. On the first day, A-bomb survivors from Japan and other parts of the world urged swifter progress toward the abolition of nuclear arms. An audience of some 800 delegates from national governments and NGOs listened to their accounts.

Toshiki Fujimori, 69, the assistant secretary general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations, reported that many A-bomb survivors have long suffered from leukemia and other diseases. He said, “What other words than inhumane can we use to describe these weapons that keep the victims suffering in this way?”

Yasuaki Yamashita, 74, was 6 when he experienced the atomic bombing in Nagasaki. After reaching adulthood, he moved to Mexico in an attempt to blot out the painful memories. Nevertheless, the mental and physical suffering has continued, he said. Speaking in Spanish, he called for nuclear weapons to be eliminated and banned.

Masaki Koyanagi, 16, a third-generation A-bomb survivor, is taking part in the conference as a “High School Peace Ambassador” sent by a Nagasaki citizens’ group. She made a speech in English and said that she has an obligation to hand down the horrors of nuclear weapons, which she has learned about since her childhood.

The Philippine ambassador to the United Nations commended the courage of the speakers in telling their stories, and said that the Philippines will work together with other nations and make efforts to abolish nuclear weapons completely.

Masao Tomonaga, the director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital, made a presentation on the afternoon of February 13. If a hydrogen bomb of one megaton were detonated over a city with a population of one million, the death toll would reach 370,000 in a short span of time, he warned. On the same day, the Austrian Foreign Ministry announced that they will sponsor the third conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons this year in Vienna.

The conference will close after the chair presents his factual summary on February 14. The key is whether the proceedings can deliver a message which calls for a ban on the use of nuclear weapons.

(Originally published on February 15, 2014)