High cancer rates, inadequate medical care for children cited as continuing problem for survivors
Officials from the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) met in Honolulu on Dec. 8, where survivors of U.S. nuclear tests from 1946 to 1958 continued to call for more-adequate restitution and medical treatment.
At least 67 different tests were conducted by the United States in the Marshall Islands, including the dropping of the hydrogen-bomb "Bravo" on March 1, 1954, which was 1,000 times the size of the bomb dropped in Hiroshima, Japan.
Led by RMI Minister of Foreign Affairs Gerald Zackios, senators, mayors and lawyers representing the four atolls affected by nuclear radiation - Enewetak, Rongelap, Utrik, and Bikini (ERUB) - spoke about the need for the U.S. government to provide adequate restitution. Also present were Deputy Assistant Secretary Steve Cary of the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Greta Morris, as well as RMI President Kesai Note, who visited the proceedings.
"Give medical treatment to our children!" urged members of an organization of survivors, known as ERUB, including the group's president Naiki Ribuca; Maza Attari, former mayor of Utrik; and Chiyoko Tamayose of Rongelap. Elma Coleman assisted with translation.
Tamayose told of how, during the tests, U.S. boats came only to evacuate adults, but that many children and grandchildren were not evacuated. Tamayose and others insisted that adequate medical care for survivors' descendants was paramount, given that high cancer rates still plague survivors' families.
In his opening statement, Foreign Minister Zackios insisted that a meeting with a deputy assistant secretary was not sufficient. He asserted that the highest levels of the DOE should be negotiating with the RMI.
Only a flat $150 million was granted 15 years ago by the U.S. government for clean up, an amount that survivors have called "absurd."
After studying 60 boxes of material released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, the RMI government submitted a changed "circumstances petition" to the U.S. Congress in 2000 asking for $3 billion more to compensate for additional medical costs, land and displacement claims.
However, in January 2005, the Bush Administration released a 66-page document saying that the U.S. government does not legally owe the RMI government or its people any further funds. And given the ever-escalating costs associated with the U.S. war in Iraq, congressional approval for the RMI looks unlikely without greater grassroots support from supporters in the U.S., survivors acknowledge.
Members of the Hawaii chapter of the UCC's Pacific Islander - Asian American Ministres were present to hear survivors' testimonies. The UCC's General Synod, as well as other settings of the church, have long called for justice for the Marshallese people and their descendants.