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Famed Japanese doctor killed in Afghanistan spent his life helping the poor

04 Dec 2019 Japan Times

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 aid 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.

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.

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 volunteers, 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.

The 73-year-old representative of the Fukuoka-based Peshawar-kai aid group, also known as Peace Japan Medical Services, and five others including his driver were killed when armed men attacked their vehicle in the city of Jalalabad, in Nangarhar province, local and Japanese government officials said Wednesday.

According to the Japanese aid group, Nakamura and the others were on their way to a site to conduct irrigation work some 25 kilometers from where they were based.

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 Japanese 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.

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Original Link: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/12/04/national/famed-japanese-doctor-killed-afghanistan-spent-life-helping-poor/

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