Six months after a massive 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami ravaged Japan’s north-eastern coast, impressive recovery has taken place, but some survivors are struggling with emotional scars and local economies are floundering.
“No country would have been able to protect itself against an earthquake and tsunami the scale of which we experienced,” said Mariko Kinai, World Vision’s emergency response director in Japan. “Six months later the survivors are still living with uncertainty and hardship. This isn’t something you can recover from quickly.”
World Vision began responding in the immediate aftermath of the disasters and has already reached more than 147,000 people with emergency relief supplies and long-term recovery assistance.
World Vision has focused its efforts on Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures, two of the hardest-hit areas.
Seven Child-Friendly Spaces have been established to give children a chance to recover from the emotional and psychological toll of the disaster. Children participate in art therapy and structured activities designed to help them return to a normal, stable environment.
“There have been literally hundreds of aftershocks that make children continuously anxious. After each one they relive the nightmare of March 11,” Kinai said. As late as August 18, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake sent tremors through the region.
While rebuilding is taking place, survivors battle every day with the physical and psychological effects of the disasters. Besides losing loved ones and having homes washed away, livelihoods have been lost and rebuilding local economies will be a long-term process.
In the coastal town of Kesennuma, the fishing industry is operating at 20 percent of its normal capacity, and thousands of people are still without jobs. World Vision is helping replace equipment that was lost in the tsunami, and will also be launching a campaign in local high schools to renew interest in the fishing industry.
“Economic recovery is key,” Kinai said. “By assisting local fishermen with new equipment and supplies, World Vision is able to help jumpstart the industry and promote long-term re-growth. This has a direct benefit to children whose parents are currently out of work.”
“By international disaster response standards, the recovery that has taken place in Japan has been exceptional,” Kinai said. “The progress here shows that preparedness and strong disaster response capacity makes a big difference.”
Summary of World Vision’s response to-date:
- More than 68,000 people have been provided emergency relief items like blankets, clothing, hygiene kits, food and water.
- More than 10,000 people living in the temporary shelters in Miyagi and Iwate Prefecture have received 100 items each to help them rebuild their lives.
- School-feeding programmes are reaching more than 1,000 students each day
- Three school buses operate daily, allowing displaced children to return to school
- Seven Child-Friendly Spaces were established to help children recover from the emotional and psychological toll of this disaster, with one CFS to continue through the school year until March 2012.
- Six community kitchens have been constructed at evacuation centres and have provided more than 15,000 hot meals.
- Electrical appliances like washing machines, rice cookers, refrigerators and vacuums have been distributed for shared use at evacuation centres.
See World Vision Japan’s video Six Months On: Communities Rebuilding Lives
for achievements so far.
World Vision has moved into the rehabilitation phase of its response, which will reach about 100,000 people from July this year to June 30, 2012. During this time, World Vision will focus on:
- community building within the temporary shelter settlements
- installing boreholes
- emergency water storage
- solar panels for emergency power in future disasters
- child development and protection through Child-Friendly Spaces
- providing school supplies, and temporary classrooms
- helping revitalise the local fishing industry
- providing relief supplies
- child-focused support to families who evacuated from Fukushima prefecture.
World Vision received a generous outpouring of donations from supporters around the world and was able to fully fund its response plan.
World Vision Australia’s fundraising appeal for Japan is no longer collecting donations. However if members of the public would like to contribute to World Vision Australia’s ‘Emergency & Preparedness Fund’ this helps World Vision respond to disasters around the world.