Number of A-bomb survivors drops to below 200,000, half of peak year

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

It was learned on May 27 that the number of holders of the Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Certificate has dropped to below 200,000 for the first time, according to a survey conducted at the end of fiscal 2013. Compared to the peak year, in 1980, the number is now about half. A similar survey conducted at the end of fiscal 2012 found that there were 201,779 certificate holders nationwide, but the number declined by 6,537 in one year in Hiroshima and Nagasaki prefectures. With the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings only a year away, there is no time to lose in conveying A-bomb experiences and advancing toward a world without nuclear weapons.

The municipal and prefectural governments of Hiroshima and Nagasaki released preliminary figures at the end of March for the number of certificate holders (including those living abroad) each government oversees. In Hiroshima Prefecture, the number was 87,620, down from 91,690, a decline of 4,070, from a year earlier. In Nagasaki, the number decreased by 2,468. When these numbers are subtracted from the figure of those across the nation as of the end of fiscal 2012, the total number of survivors is 195,241. The Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry is now tallying the number of certificate holders who are under the administration of other prefectures. The exact number will be released in July.

The Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Certificate began to be issued in fiscal 1957, 12 years after the atomic bombings. In the first year, 200,984 people obtained the certificate. The largest number of survivors holding the certificate was 372,264, recorded in fiscal 1980. Since then, the number of certificate holders has decreased year by year, with the exception of fiscal 1982. Around 1990, the annual drop was 4,000 to 5,000, but the latest dip is bigger than 9,000. The decline is accelerating. At the current pace, it is inevitable that the number of survivors at the end of fiscal 2014 will be half of the largest number.

The City of Hiroshima, which has the largest number of A-bomb survivors among local governments, saw a drop of 2,636 in the fiscal year that ended this past March. In addition, the average age of the survivors has risen to 78.9, up 0.6 from the previous year. While survivors continue to pass away, the number of people who obtain the certificate each year hovers between 100 and 300.

(Originally published on May 28, 2014)