By: Dawoud Nejrabi
Japanese physician Tetsu Nakamura, one of six people gunned down in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, was a committed aid worker who had for decades provided medical treatment and help to the poor in the borderlands of the country and Pakistan.
In recognition of his significant contributions, including the construction of irrigation systems, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani granted Nakamura honorary citizenship in October.
Nakamura’s 66-year-old wife, Naoko, tearfully told reporters Wednesday that she had recognized the risks her husband faced doing aid work in Afghanistan, where security remains volatile, but hoped that she would never have to hear the news of his death.
“I’m filled with sorrow,” she said at her home in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture. But she showed her understanding for his life dedicated to supporting poor people.
“I wanted him to stay home but he put all his effort toward his activities,” she said, adding that he was back home for about two weeks until late November, and left for Afghanistan as if it were business as usual.
A graduate of the Kyushu University School of Medicine, Nakamura began his medical work in Pakistan’s northwest region of Peshawar in 1984, treating people with leprosy and other diseases.
During that time, he also treated countless refugees in Pakistan who had fled the civil war in Afghanistan. In 1991, he opened a clinic in the province of Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan.
Realizing that poverty is one of the main reasons young people join militant groups in the country, his focus gradually shifted from health care to drought and anti-poverty measures.
Water shortages due to a drought in Afghanistan in 2000 led to the spread of infectious diseases and a rising death toll among children. Nakamura assembled a group of workers, including Japanese youth, to dig wells in order to improve villagers’ access to water, with the construction of irrigation channels commencing in 2003.
After studying hydraulic engineering, Nakamura developed construction methods through trial and error that did not require expensive machinery.
Despite low pay, the young workers toiled at their work. They strived to adapt to the local lifestyle in the Islamic country. Nakamura would often use harsh words but many young volunteers sympathized with Nakamura’s warmth and community-based approach.
Osamu Hasuoka, 46, one of the former members of Nakamura’s aid group, Peshawar-kai, helped dig wells and engaged in other work in Afghanistan. Hasuoka described Nakamura as the kind of person “who never let himself compromise on his work, in doing activities that save people’s lives.”
Hasuoka said Nakamura had led young staff members and always adhered to the rules and did not allow the members to let their guard down.
In 2008, the organization also started building a school in eastern Afghanistan with the aim of educating children and caring for infants in poverty-stricken families. Many poor people in the desolate region, lacking in industry, side with anti-government militant groups. In August 2008, Kazuya Ito, a 31-year-old member of Peshawar-kai who was working on the construction of irrigation channels, was shot and killed by an armed group.
Although the aid group restricted the entry of Japanese nationals into the area following the incident, Nakamura continued his work there, using donations to improve the lives of locals.
The Afghan government commended Nakamura last year for his dedication to humanitarian work.
He was also awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award, dubbed the Nobel Prize of Asia, in 2003 for his long-standing contributions to the region.
According to Japanese magazine, at least he established 1600 wells and established tens of hospitals and despite this, he prepared the ground for irrigation of thousands of hectares of land for the local people in eastern provinces.
Tetsu Nakamura had no interest to politics but knew where he was living. Despite much threats, he worked for suffering people for over 30 years. He believed with doing so, may he remove one of problems from among hundreds and was saying hunger and thirst were curable by medicine. With this slogan, he searched ways to rescue people from going to clinic. He planned that in coming years, to bring greenery for 650000 people.
Japan is a country that because of presence in world wars and meddling of other countries saw numerous irreparable harms. Deadly chemical attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is never forgettable by world people.
After ratification of new constitution in 1946, this country made a decision that to keep itself away from world wars and disorders. The ninth article of this constitution writes that to realize world peace and based on justice and order, the people of Japan refute war as a mean of imposing of sovereignty of a country and threat with using force for the solution of international disputes. For reaching of the abovementioned goal, the land, air and navy forces and other war potentially possibilities never be protected. The right of “protection of warring country would not be recognized”.
Nakamura was in believe that maintenance of water resources and a suitable food items is better comparing healthcare and finally he succeeded to do so. Now Nangarhar people mourning his death and consider his absence a great loss to the development of the province.
Meanwhile the Afghan government, Afghans missions abroad, civil society activists, culturists and people of different provinces held commemoration ceremonies and praised all his works for Afghan people and condemned his assassination in its strongest term.