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Hiroshima for Global Peace

Medical Care and support for A-bomb Survivors

On August 6, 1945, one atomic bomb – the first nuclear weapon used in human history – was dropped on Hiroshima. The scorching flash and blast waves released by the bomb instantly destroyed the city, took many precious lives, left countless people injured, and still continue to hurt those who survived. How medical care and support were for A-bomb Survivors after the bomb was dropped? What kind of legal support do survivors receive?

Medical facilities in Hiroshima before the atomic bombing

By the end of the World War II, Hiroshima Prefecture had few public hospitals, and there were no medical institutions of higher education, or their affiliated hospitals. Instead, it was home to a number of military hospitals,

Path to medical care for A-bomb survivors

In Japan, physicians were prohibited from evacuation at that time, in preparation for relief activities in the event of an air raid. There were 298 physicians still in Hiroshima City at the time of the bombing. Of these physicians, 90% were affected and there were only 28 physicians who were uninjured. Dentists, pharmacists, and nurses also suffered as the injured and sick suffered catastrophic damages.

Immediately after the bombing –

– In critical condition, without regard for their own injuries, the healthcare professionals who narrowly escaped death treated people in bombed medical facilities and relief stations hurriedly set up in schools, temples, bridges, roads, and parks.

– Rescue teams came to help, not only from within the prefecture but also from the neighboring prefectures such as Okayama, Yamaguchi, and Shimane, and all the way from Osaka, Hyogo and other prefectures.

September 8, 1945

Dr. Marcel Junod, the new head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’ delegation in Japan, arrived in Japan on August9, 1945. He immediately negotiated with the GHW for support, after he was informed of the appalling conditions in Hiroshima, and on September 8 he came to Hiroshima himself, bringing along approximately 15 tons of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment provided by the US army. Dr. Junod stayed in Hiroshima for four days and was involved in the relief activities.


The secretariat of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) was established to continue carrying out investigations on the aftereffects of radiation.


Doyokai was established by mainly young Physicians to conduct the research of a-bomb survivors.

January 13, 1953

Hiroshima City and the Hiroshima City Medical Association established the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Treatment Council (ABSTC)(currently the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Casualty Council), to offer free medical treatment and health checkups for survivors.


The Hiroshima Atomic-bomb Hospital of the Hiroshima Red Cross Society (currently the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital & Atomic-bomb Survivors Hospital) opened to provide medical services to those suffering from the aftereffects of radiation exposure.


The Research Institute for Nuclear Medicine and Biology (currently the Hiroshima University Faculty of Medicine, Research Institute Radiation Biology and Medicine) was established at Hiroshima University to conduct fundamental research on issues such as the impact of radiation on the human body.


The Japan and U.S. governments reached an agreement to reform ABCC into the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) and have it continue doing researching survivors.


Organizations engaged in medical treatment for survivors and research on the aftereffects of radiation in Hiroshima worked together to launch the Hiroshima International Council for Health Care of the Radiation-exposed (HICARE), which provides training for overseas medical providers and sends professional to overseas locations.

Legislative support for A-bomb survivors

In March 1954, the crew members of a Japanese fishing boat, the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon No.5), were exposed to the radiation of the American hydrogen bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. In response to this incident, a movement to ban nuclear bombs was launched and A-bomb survivors began taking action requesting national support in order to cover the costs of their medical treatment and for assistance with their living expenses. As a result, the A-bomb Survivors Medical Care Law was enacted in 1957, and enabled survivors to receive health examinations and medical care by using national funds. However, there were criticisms that the survivors eligible to receive these benefits was limited under certain conditions and the law was amended.



Main point


Atomic Bomb Survivors Medical Care Law was enforced

– Atomic bomb survivor’s certificate is issued to about 200,000 survivors.

* The target area is Nagasaki City (previous area), Hiroshima City and those areas next to City of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. 

– Provide the medical care

* Start to provide the medical care of designated disease

– Health check 

* Free health check for all atomic comb survivors (2 times per year)


Atomic Bomb Survivors Medical Care Law was amended

– Establish the special category of atomic bomb survivors

* The survivors who suffered within 2km from hypocenter are special atomic bomb survivors and their medical expenses are free of charge. 

– Medical allowances

* Start the medical allowances to atomic bomb survivors who suffer from designated disease. 


Atomic Bomb Survivors Special Measures Law was enforced

Guarantee the survivors special allowance, health care allowance, nursing allowance and other benefits in addition to the conventional medical allowance.


Atomic Bomb Survivors Support Law was enforced

It stipulates that the Japanese government should assume the responsibility of implementing comprehensive relief measures for the health, medical care, and welfare of the atomic bomb survivors.

Reference: Hiroshima’s path to Reconstruction

Hiroshima Reconstruction and Peacebuilding Research Project Report, “Learning from Hiroshima’s Reconstruction Experience: Reborn from the Ashes: Vol.2”

Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare

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