The Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, has long been affected by many earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions,floods, and typhoons. Every year, these areas suffer various kinds of damage caused by natural disasters. A report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction(UNISDR), indicated that 75% of the death toll from naturaldisasters between 1970 and 2011 occurred in the Asia-Pacific region. It also pointed out that Asia is the mostvulnerable region in the world against disasters. Being located in the trans-Pacific earthquake zone, which experiences frequent typhoons, is one of the causes of huge loss of life after disasters. One important feature of thisregion is that most Asian cities are highly populated and many people live near the sea or rivers. Most of the Asiancountries are still emerging nations, so outbreaks of disasters could exacerbate poverty.
Meanwhile, after experiencing the Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan is also facing challenges in reducing riskfrom disasters. Since March 11, 2011, the Japanese government has received offers of aid from 163 countriesand regions, and 43 international organizations. However, they were not utilized effectively because local governmentsthat should have functioned as disaster response hubs were affected and thus failed to identify the true needs of disaster victims. Issues involving mutual coordination among various groups, including the central government,non-governmental organizations, companies, and the Self-Defense Forces, were also highlighted.
In order to tackle such challenges, Civic Force established the “Asia Pacific Alliance” (APADM) in 2012 together withorganizations involved in disaster aid activities in the Asian region. The Alliance aims to bridge the government andlocal authorities of a country with companies and NGOs through borderless cooperation. If all parties share andutilize information, human resources, capital and goods among various countries on the same footing, aid could beprovided faster in times of disasters.
Over the years, as we accumulated experience in disaster aid, we have emphasized the necessity of structuring thecooperation mechanism among organizations. We are now making efforts to strengthen this cooperative framework inpreparation for natural disasters which have become more frequent in recent years. In regard to the said activities, much progress had been made in the month of May. This month, the 39th Monthly Report focuses on the 2nd general assembly of the Asia Pacific Alliance, the international symposium, and a training program for junior officers involved in disaster management in Asian countries.
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Three years ago in May 2011, many volunteers from all over the country came to work in the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake during the Golden Week and other holidays. They removed mud and cleaned up debris. Many other people have also participated in volunteer activities organized by NPOs, so the year 2011 is called “the first year of the new volunteer movement.”
More than three years have passed since the disaster and the number of visitors to the affected areas is gradually declining.
On the other hand, the aid activities have diversified away from collecting donations and working in the areas, and various aid methods have been created.
One way to support long-term reconstruction is “to buy” products from the disaster areas. Products made in these areas include traditional handcrafts dating back to before the disaster, industrial products backed by excellent technology, and delicious food items grown in the nature of Tohoku. Buying these products is one casual way of supporting the region.
Some of the NPOs and companies Civic Force has been supporting through the “NPO Partner Projects,” are creating attractive products.
This 38th Monthly Report focuses on the “recent activities” of our partner NPOs, such as “Peace Jam,” which support mothers in disaster-hit areas,and “Peace Nature Lab,” which sells sweets made from local ingredients.
Three years and a month have passed since the occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake. In the disaster affected Sanriku coastal areas including Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures, efforts to build new towns are gradually getting underway, such as elevating ground, and building public houses for the victims. On the other hand, the pace of reconstruction has been very slow in some parts of Fukushima prefecture, which have been seriously impacted by radiation from the nuclear power plant accident.
One hundred thirty thousand nuclear accident evacuees have yet to return to their home town. It is said that more than 47,000 of them are now living in other prefectures, with 20 percent staying with relatives and acquaintances while more than 80 percent have started new lives in unfamiliar places (Source: Reconstruction Agency, as of March, 2014).
The government finally gave up on meeting its initial goal of sending all evacuees back home, and has asked about 25,000 people, whose residences are inside the “difficult-to-return zones” where annual radiation exposure level still exceeds 50 millisieverts, to agree to a de facto “permanent relocation.”
Some hope to return to their home town someday and revitalize the town. Some have no choice but to settle in new places to stabilize their lives. These people are all facing the harsh reality and being forced to make difficult decisions.
In order to respond to such complicated feelings of the evacuees, people in and out of Fukushima Prefecture not only must support the return of evacuees but also have the courage to support those people who are starting new lives away from their home town and implement supportive measures for them.
In this monthly report, we will introduce the support project for accepting evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture, which was launched in Hiroshima in August 2013 as part of the NPO Partner Projects for helping the people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
We will also report on the new aid projects launched by the “Tohoku Common Benefit Investment Fund,” which was established by Civic Force in December 2011 following the earthquake disaster, as well as the progress of the aid for the areas hit by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last year.