Five years ago, in Japan, a devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered an "unthinkable" disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. This year, we also mark 30 years since the 1986 nuclear accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine.
The commemoration of these catastrophic events is an opportunity to reflect on our preparedness to respond to low-probability but high-impact disasters. First and foremost, they should remind us of the long-term humanitarian and environmental costs of nuclear accidents. Today, Red Cross staff and volunteers continue to monitor the effects of radiation on generations who were not alive when these accidents took place. Thirty years after Chernobyl people still face health complications and other challenges in their daily lives that are associated with living in contaminated areas. In Japan, the Red Cross is supporting families through the psychological stresses of displacement. Over 100,000 people from Fukushima are still unable to return home. Many continue to face an uncertain future, living in temporary housing as decontamination efforts continue.
It is clear that as a global humanitarian community we remain ill-equipped to address the very specific and potentially long-lasting needs of people at risk from complex and emerging threats associated with technological hazards. Given the myriad of humanitarian crises that the world is confronting today, some may ask whether it is appropriate to devote time and resources to preparing for rare but potentially high impact technological accidents such as nuclear emergencies.