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Eight years on, Fukushima still poses health risks for children via The Manila Times

BY AKIO MATSUMURA

NEW YORK (IPS): On March 11, we commemorate the 8th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. To an outside observer, this anniversary passes as a technical progress report, a look at new robot, or a short story on how lives there are slowly returning to normal.

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The latest publicly released findings of radiation levels are from 2017, when Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) had to use a remote-controlled robot to detect the levels in Reactor 2, since no human can approach the crippled reactor.

The rates read 530 sieverts per hour, the highest since the March 2011 meltdown. We have no reason to believe that they have fallen since then. Remote-control robots are being used in the other reactors as well, indicating that radiation levels are similarly high there.

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Fukushima’s children need international attention
There have been many victims of this disaster. Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes. Local fishermen are worried that the government will proceed with its plan to dump the storage tanks of contaminated water into the ocean.
Others worry that the flow of the radioactive wind and contaminated water are reaching North America and will continue to do so for the next 40 years.

Above all of these important issues, it is the children of Fukushima who most need our attention. They are at risk of higher rates of cancer because of their exposure to the contamination from the initial explosion. In Chernobyl, the only comparable case we have, more than 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer were found in children according to the UN through 2005.

There is evidence that thyroid cancer rates are higher among Fukushima’s children than the national population, but it is a latent disease: it is still too early to tell what the full impact will be. But it is clear the case needs action.

Scientists will always offer different opinions, swayed first by uncertainty, but also, sadly, by politics, money and ambition.

Some will claim that the evidence has been exaggerated, underestimated, or that perhaps we’re at too early a stage to be certain. Or that we need more time to clarify the results. I have seen many instances of these arguments at the United Nations and international science conferences. Why do we wait and make another mistake?

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We all agree with that personally, but which institution is best positioned to carry out the mission? To me, Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, is the only answer. Indeed, putting children above national security is at Unicef’s core.

Maurice Pate, an American humanitarian and businessman who joined Unicef at its inception in 1947, agreed to serve as the executive director upon the condition that Unicef serves the children of “ex-enemy countries, regardless of race or politics.” In 1965, at the end of Pate’s term, the organization won the Nobel Peace Prize.

To this day, its mission includes a commitment to “ensuring special protection for the most disadvantaged children — victims of war, disasters, extreme poverty, all forms of violence and exploitation and those with disabilities.” The children of Fukushima deserve the protection of Unicef.

Akio Matsumura is founder of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival and also the secretary general of the Global Forum Moscow Conference hosted by President Mikhail Gorbachev at the Kremlin in 1990 as well as of the Parliamentary Earth Summit Conference hosted by Brazil National Assembly in Rio de Janeiro in 1992

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