Japan will continue to provide assistance to those who are hit hardest by the financial crisis that has hit Asia, Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi said Monday.

Particular attention should be paid to those suffering from unemployment, poverty and medical supply shortages as governments in the region cut back on spending for social needs, Obuchi said.

Obuchi was speaking at the opening of the International Symposium on Health Initiatives in the Asian Economic Crisis: Human-Centered Approach, sponsored by a number of organizations, including the Foreign Ministry and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

“The crisis creates problems of broad social dimensions, including in employment, poverty, education as well as health, all of which are intricately linked, thus highlighting the need to look at the issue from the point of view of ‘human security,'” Obuchi said.

Participants included Naruo Uehara, a professor of international health at Tohoku University, and Triono Soendoro, bureau chief for social welfare, health and nutrition at Indonesia’s Development Agency. They agreed that the prices of such necessities as medical equipment, medicine and powdered milk have soared since the crisis hit Indonesia, adding that assistance should be directed at those who are especially vulnerable.

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