May 16: Report from the Disaster Area


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I arrived in Koriyama City on May 11 and started to visit the evacuation zone and the evacuation shelters once again.

What I found out was that at one point, more than 100 people with disabilities and the elderly who needed care were in the   evacuation shelters in Fukushima Prefecture.  I also found out that most of these people have been moved to institutions and large scale institution complexes in remote locations called “colonies” in the nearby municipalities.  I received this information from a physician who was assigned to the first aid center at the special care evacuation shelter (welfare evacuation shelter).  Before the disaster, this physician had his own practice in a town close to the nuclear power plant.  He told me that after the disaster, he cared for many people who relied on oxygen tanks, and that he stayed with them as they passed away when the oxygen tanks ran out.  Immediately after the disaster, with communication lines cut off, with shortage of medical supplies, and with logistics inside the evacuation zone halted after the evacuation order, the doctor spent many hours with these people who were left there to die.  He continued to witness such deaths as he was assigned to different places inside the evacuation zone.  In an effort to prevent deaths caused by lack of medical supplies and care, when this doctor was assigned to the first aid center at the special care evacuation shelter, his policy was to send everyone who need nursing care to institutions with medical facilities in nearby municipalities.  His efforts were so successful that now there is no one left, both people with disabilities and the elderly, who require nursing care at the evacuation shelters.  This doctor negotiated with the prefectural government so that the nearby municipalities would accept people with nursing care needs into the institutions over and above the capacity of the institutions.

I can understand why this doctor did what he did.  However, even with this understanding, I want to point out that in this process of sending people to institutions, the will and the decision making of the people with disabilities were most likely not taken into account.  People with disabilities, including myself, fought for over 30 years against institutionalization.  When we look at the predicament of people with disabilities in the disaster areas in this light, we see that after major disasters, people with disabilities are easily forced back to a state where our human rights can simply be taken away.  Furthermore, this situation only became apparent because a specialist from the JDF Disaster Area Support Center for People with Disabilities Fukushima visited the evacuation shelter to gain this testimony in person, and this information was never offered to us at any time during our activities in the two months following the disaster.  From tomorrow onwards, we will start to visit the institutions where the people with disabilities with nursing care needs were sent.  We fear that the history of institutionalization and segregation of people with disabilities will be repeated once again.


この投稿文は次の言語で読めます: Japanese

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