Support Required for Child Quake Victims
Two years and five months have passed since the March 11 GreatEast Japan Earthquake. The damage by this unprecedented disasterwas enormous. More than 15,000 people were killed and an estimated290,000 or more are still unable to return to their homes and are put up in temporary housing set up by the government, existing private and public housing, evacuation centres or are living with friends orrelatives. (Source: Reconstruction Agency website)
One of the biggest concerns in the affected areas is the impact ofprolonged life in refuge on children, our bearers of hope for thefuture. Due to the earthquake, many children find it difficult to continue their studies as the finances of their families came understrain: The breadwinners of their families may have died, gonemissing, become injured or ill, or lost their jobs from the disaster.Many families also suffered financial losses from the destruction oftheir homes – Some houses collapsed, were burnt down, or were damaged by the floods. Aside from the decline in their academic achievements, children also suffer from mental and emotional stress.
On the other hand, those children’ s parents are always on edge– Some are overwhelmed with worries about the future, some became sensitive to noises while some are depressed. These problems inevitably affect the children.
According to the 2012 data released by the Ministry of Health,Labour and Welfare, cases of child abuse were on the rise in the disaster areas. To stop the vicious cycle of suffering, more deliberate support is necessary to help tackle the individual problems faced by each victim.
As part of the Mid- to Long-Term Reconstruction Project ofCivic Force, the Dream Support Project was set up in March 2013to provide scholarships and educational programs for high schooland university students affected by the earthquake. As of July2013, 895 scholarships have been given out.
In the summer holiday season of July and August this year, an experiential learning program was organised for scholarship holders in cooperation with local NPOs which have been working with Civic Force in the north-eastern region of Japan. Through discussions with the local NPOs and youths of similar age, the program hopes to broaden the views of the participants and give them strength tolive life to the fullest.
This monthly Report features the three-day exchange program organised by the Japan Forest Biomass Network at the Tenohira niTaiyo no Ie, or House of Sunshine in Your Hand (in short House of Sunshine), a facility that supports children living the Fukushima area.
If you need further information, please find attachment and our homepage(www.civic-force.org).
Public-private partnership for reconstruction support
On July 2, the Minister for Reconstruction Takumi Nemoto announced at the 8th meeting of the Reconstruction Promotion Council, which was attended by all cabinet members, that the government will start developing a “Growth Strategy” for the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and a platform for sharing information on job placements and private investment in the field of disaster reconstruction.
The strategy specifically aims to revitalize the affected areas through creation of sites for centralizing all information on job placements and providing venues where people can seek advice on business management from experts such as financial institutions. There is also a plan to establish a system for dispatching experts from other areas to companies, municipal governments, and commerce and industry associations in the affected areas. The objective ofthese plans is to raise the level of reconstruction from “rebuilding” to “growth,” and the key to implementing the plans will be for both the public sector and the private sector to share an awareness of cooperating for the same goal.
Private sector efforts will be a driving force in changing the society
We envision a society where, in times of disaster, the government (i.e. the public sector) provides existing public services while NPOs, companies and individuals (i.e. the private sector) also contribute towards attaining public benefit; both the public and private sectors, in their respective positions, will actively provide services ranging from emergency relief activities to building new towns in the reconstruction phase. We established Civic Force in the aim of creating such a society, and now we are focusing on supporting those people who are in the affected areas and are independently seeking to start new businesses for reconstruction.
Our “Mid- to Long-Term Reconstruction Support Projects,” which were launched in the summer of 2012, aim to solve the problems that had existed in the affected areas since before the disaster, such as the decline of the agriculture sector and issues related to the medical care system, which stem from depopulation and ageing of the communities. We have ongoing projects in five fields: “tourism,” “emergency medical service,” “renewable energy,” “town development” and “child support.” These projects take full advantage of our partnerships with NPOs and local governments that were built through our NPO Partner Projects, which were started just after the earthquake.
This Monthly Report features one of the Mid- to Long-Term Reconstruction Support Projects, in an article that covers the opening ceremony to launch the “Platform for the Creation of Ria Coast Tourism,” which was established in Kesennuma city, Miyagi Prefecture, and the role Civic Force played in the establishment of the organization.
The private sector will be a huge driving force for changing the society and leading the way to a new era. Civic Force will continue to work towards creating a system that will maximize such a driving force.
If you need further information, please find our homepage(www.civic-force.org/english)
Mental care and Reconstruction of Devastated Areas
More than two years have passed since the Great East Japan earthquake. In devastated areas such as Miyagi and Iwate prefecture, tangible movements towards reconstruction such as debris removal, restoration of public infrastructure, construction of disaster public housing is underway. On the other hand, the psychological stress of disaster victims who have lost their loved ones or have faced significant changes in living conditions is immeasurable, and the need for psychological care is increasing in number.
In particular, there have been recent cases where people cannot adapt to the new community after moving from temporary housing, and thus, becoming more reclusive from society.
In the case of the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake in 1995, the number of victims who needed psychological care is said to have increased three years from the disaster, after physical safety and ordinary life stabilized among the disaster victims. In the disaster-struck Tohoku region, where similar circumstances are occurring, we came across people who support the lives of the disaster victims. These “mental experts=clinical psychologists” have been helping people solve their psychological needs according to their characteristics and situations.
As of April 2013, the number of clinical psychologists certified by the Foundation of the Japanese Certification Board for Clinical Psychologists was 26,329. According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the ratio of clinical psychologists is one per approximately 7,000 people in Miyagi prefecture and 9,000 in Iwate prefecture, while the ratio in Tokyo is one per approximately 3,000, showing how the number of clinical psychologists in the disaster-struck Tohoku region is far below the national average. In particular, 70% of the clinical psychologists in the entire Iwate prefecture are concentrated in and around Morioka city. Especially for the coastal disaster areas where there were shortages of physicians and hospitals even before the earthquake, there is a greater need for psychological care, and the importance of clinical psychologists in the area is way above other prefectures.
This month, we will introduce the activities of Iwate Society of Certified Clinical Psychologists, one of the efforts of NPO Partner Projects which supports NPOs established in devastated areas to respond to their needs. The Iwate Society of Certified Clinical Psychologists carried out their activities in the coastal disaster areas soon after the earthquake, as “specialists” offering various mental cares in cooperation with Iwate prefecture, municipal administrations and private organizations.
If you need further information, please find our homepage.(www.civic-force.org/english)
Renewable Energy and Reconstruction of the Disaster Stricken Area
Two years and two months have passed since the March 11 earthquake in the northeast area of Japan or Tohoku. Simply “restoring” the area back to its former state before disaster struck is not sufficient. Reconstruction efforts need to be comprehensive and aim to tackle problems that beset the area even before the disaster, such as aging population and declining industry activities. The nuclear disaster after the earthquake offered an opportunity to also review at the energy policy of Japan, which has consistently increased its dependency on nuclear power after the World War II.
Under these circumstances, it is hoped that tapping onto renewable energy sources in the region, such as solar power, wind power and hydraulic power, could lead to increased energy self-sufficiency, prevent global warming, and perhaps even promote local industries.
Tohoku region with its abundant nature has high potential in renewable energy development. Aomori prefecture and Akita prefecture come in first and fifth respectively for having the most numbers of windmills in the whole country, evidence that they there are the forerunners in wind power generation. In addition, northeastern Japan is also an important rice-producing area in the country. Drawing on its agricultural heritage, Akita prefecture is starting to develop small hydraulic power generation systems along their irrigation channels used in farming.
More than 70 percent of the Tohoku region, an equivalent of 4.7 million hectares, is occupied by forest. The local lumbering and timber industry produces about 530 thousand tons of timber off cuts annually which could be a potential source of raw materials for woody biomass. In fact, some think tanks have proposed that forestry should be positioned as a key industry in the reconstruction efforts as it can create many jobs.
The feed-in tariff system started in July in 2012 aims to increase the use of renewable energy in Japan. Feed-in tariff refers to the amount paid by government to businesses, individual households and other organizations to generate renewable energy and the system includes other requirements such as the obligatory purchase of renewable electricity by electric power companies. Also, Special Reconstruction Act enforced in December in 2011 aims to accelerate reconstruction in the disaster-stricken areas by encouraging the local governments to develop their own plans to suit the needs and characteristics of the local communities. The act thus opens a window of opportunity for the local administrations to consider their energy security needs.
With the support from new policies and reconstruction assistance given, the private sector has begun to take on the new challenges to develop renewable energy systems. In this monthly report, we will include an article on “Green Cycle Project – Developing a sustainable forest industry and effective utilization of woody biomass”, a project Miyagi prefecture implemented as part of the Mid–to Long–Term Reconstruction Support Projects, which started in the summer of 2012.
Disaster areas, tourism and reconstruction
“I would like to visit disaster areas but there is nothing I can do now. Is it alright to go there just for sightseeing?” asked one of the supporters living in Tokyo the other day.
More than two years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011. In the disaster areas, some say that it is hard to think about Tourism because there still are many serious problems to be solved, such as group relocation from the areas devastated by earthquake and tsunami, reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure, construction of coastal levees and windbreaks, preservation of architectural remains from the disaster, disposal of disaster waste and so on.
Many of the disaster areas were not tourist spots but residential areas or fishing villages, so the local residents are still puzzled to see many people from other areas visiting there.
On the other hand, one of the remarkable challenges for reconstruction is to prevent depopulation of the area, which had been progressing even before the disaster, by rediscovering the fascination of the area and attracting as many people as possible from inside and outside of the area. For this purpose, a far-sighted tourism revitalization plan is being developed and implemented now, so that the vitality of the local communities can be maintained into the future; 5 years, 10 years and beyond. The plan is a joint effort between public and private sectors and combines various resources such as the beautiful scenery and delicacies that are peculiar to the Sanriku region, geographical connection with famous tourist sites, and relationship with volunteers, which started after the disaster.
Many shops and restaurants that were lost in the tsunami are already reopening in temporary shopping malls one after another, and towns are becoming busy again. Moreover, various efforts are being made, which include attempts to keep the memories of the disaster from fading, such as volunteer-guided tours and Kataribe Taxi, and development and sales of products using local produces and materials. [Kataribe taxi drivers take tourists to places where the scars of disaster still remain and describe what actually happened there.]
These attempts represent the feelings of the people, such as: “Please don’t forget the memories of the disaster” and “Let’s reconstruct our beautiful town once again.
Whether or not you have visited the disaster areas before, please come and feel the air of reconstruction in progress.
In this monthly report, we will report the outcome of the Kesennuma City Strategic Meeting for Tourism, which was launched in March 2012, and the activities of Civic Force, which have been supporting the management of meetings and formulation of the strategies. [Kesennuma City in Miyagi prefecture was severely damaged by the earthquake disaster.]
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