Help disabled and elderly disaster survivors

 
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May 30, 2011

Activity Report (April 22nd to 30th, 2011)

April 22nd, 2011

AAR JAPAN Provides Healthcare to Survivors

Reaching survivors in their homes on the Oshika Peninsula
  
AAR JAPAN has been making regular visits to provide medical treatment to earthquake survivors on the Oshika Peninsula, an isolated region of Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture.
 
The Oshika Peninsula suffered tremendous damage in the earthquake. Medical teams from Tokai University and the Japanese Red Cross Society are taking care of patients in the northern part of the peninsula, while a Self-Defense Force medical team is working in the south. However, at present their support focuses only on people at evacuation centers, and does not reach survivors who have chosen to remain in their homes.
 
Some residents cannot travel to receive health care at evacuation centers due to old age or problems with their legs, while others have not been able to obtain information on where to go. Health workers from all over the country have been assigned to visit homes in different areas of Ishinomaki City, performing check-ups and inspecting damage, but the system has not yet been able to reach the Oshika Peninsula.
 
To meet this need, AAR JAPAN formed a medical team led by Dr. Toshiaki YASUDA, a long-time medical practitioner in the area. Dr. YASUDA is supported by two nurses, Moeko NAGAI and Mika SEKII, with Eijiro MURAKOSHI serving as administrative staff. The team began making regular visits to provide medical treatment in homes and evacuation centers on April 9th.
 
Many survivors remain in their homes on the peninsula, where our team is working with about 640 people in the Makino-hama, Takeno-hama, Kitsunezaki-hama, Sudachi, Fukiura, Kozumi-hama and Kobuchi-hama areas. In coordination with the Red Cross Society and governmental agencies supervising medical support in Ishinomaki City, Dr. YASUDA has been making regular medical visits on weekends, while providing services such as care for chronic illness, prevention against infectious diseases, and mental support on weekdays.

 
April 10th – Dr. Toshiaki YASUDA (left) examines a man in his sixties who is living in an evacuation center in Ogihama Junior High School. The man was relieved to receive a careful examination and a medical prescription.
  
Providing detailed care to each person
  
When visiting homes and evacuation centers, our team first coordinates with the regional Emergency Headquarters, or visit homes that have been introduced by other survivors in the area.
 
On April 16th, our team visited an elderly couple sheltered in their home in the Makino-hama area of the Higashihama ward. Though both were in good health, the wife was worried about her blood pressure, and they were both relieved when no problem was found.
 
In addition to performing check-ups, we listen to survivors’ concerns, ask about difficulties they are having, and inquire about any supplies they may need. In one house the toilet was connected to a septic tank, and the pump truck had not come since the earthquake. When a truck came to the evacuation center nearby, the homeowners were told that the truck could not come to individual houses. While the tank did not pose a threat to hygiene when we visited, we informed the staff in charge of the evacuation center of the situation, and asked for appropriate measures to be taken before the problem worsened.
 
We informed survivors that we would visit regularly to provide check-ups and ask about any difficulties they were having. When one survivor replied with watery eyes, “That will be really helpful. Thank you,” I realized just what kind of terrible anxiety these people are living with every day.
 
Despite of the enormous difficulties they are facing, the residents of the Oshika Peninsula have been cheerful and warm-hearted, supporting one another in their daily lives. When we visit, they prepare tea and express their thanks, and we find ourselves as much cheered by them as they are by us. We will continue to listen to their appeals, and will endeavor to understand their feelings as we work to maintain their health.
 

April 16th – When visiting patients, we inquire about their health and daily lives. Nurse Moeko NAGAI (left) measures a patient’s blood pressure.

 Rapporteur:

Moeko NAGAI: Emergency Relief Team (nurse and medical officer)
Worked in hospital for three years after graduation from university
After studying in the United States for one year, she worked as a nurse at kindergarten in Japan for two years
 

April 28th, 2011

AAR JAPAN Provides Buses to Hospitals and Schools

AAR JAPAN operates regular bus services for residents
  
AAR JAPAN has been supporting the operation of regular bus services in the Oshika Peninsula, an isolated region of Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. AAR-supported buses are operating in Ogihama Ward, which lies at the entry to the peninsula, and Ayukawa Ward in the south.
Prefectural Road No. 2 cuts through the Oshika Peninsula, forming a thoroughfare to hospitals and shopping centers in Ishinomaki’s city center. Regular bus services once ran along the prefectural road, with mid-sized buses connecting residential areas to the main line. However, roads leading to the prefectural road have cracked or subsided due to the March 11th earthquake, making it impossible to operate mid-sized buses. With so many cars swept away by the tsunami, it is now difficult for people in Ogihama Ward and Ayukawa Ward to go to the hospital, go shopping, or go to school.
April 26th – A road along the sea in Ogihama Ward. Side roads connecting to Prefectural Road No. 2 are still so narrow that only one car can go through. (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
  
“I went to the city for the first time since the earthquake”
  
In cooperation with Miyakou Bus Co., Ltd. and Oshika Public Service, AAR JAPAN started operating regular buses on April 10th, using 10-seater mini-buses that are capable of navigating the narrowed roads. Services have been provided twice a day, with two buses operating in Ogihama Ward and one bus in Ayukawa Ward. All services are provided for free, with the beginning of operation announced by radio and at evacuation centers.
 
In Ogihama Ward, buses run from the peninsula’s Fukiura area to the Japanese Red Cross hospital in the city center. The trip takes one and a half hours, with two round-trips provided daily. On the way, the bus also stops at convenient locations such as elementary schools, junior high schools and shopping centers, as well as at Ishinomaki Station.
 
Speaking with watery eyes, a 75-year-old woman who used the bus told us, “I hadn’t been able to go to the city center since the earthquake. When I heard about the bus service on the radio, I was overjoyed.”
 
At the southern end of the peninsula in Ayukawa Ward, mini-buses travel in and out of the ward’s residential areas to bring people to the bus stop on Prefectural Road No. 2. As more and more people return to their homes from evacuation centers, buses accessible to individual residences are increasingly important, particularly as many elderly people live in the area.
 
In addition to normal twice-daily services, the mini-buses are also used as school buses. AAR JAPAN will continue to provide bus services to enable people in the affected areas to get back to their regular lives as quickly as possible.
 
April 26th – Children getting on the mini-bus to go home from Higashihama Elementary School. Classes resumed on April 21st. (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
  

April 16th – When visiting patients, we inquire about their health and daily lives. Nurse Moeko NAGAI (left) measures a patient’s blood pressure.

Rapporteur:
Moeko NAGAI: Emergency Relief Team (nurse and medical officer)
Worked in hospital for three years after graduation from university
After studying in the United States for one year, she worked as a nurse at kindergarten in Japan for two years
 
 
April 29th, 2011

Hot Springs are Fantastic! Let’s Bring Hot Springs to the Disaster Zone.

Delivering hot spring water from Onikobe Onsen to evacuation centers
  
In cooperation with Manyo Club Co., Ltd. (Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture), Ascendia Inc. (Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo) and others, AAR JAPAN has been implementing the project “Let’s Bring Hot Springs to the Disaster Zone.” Since April 12th, we have provided hot spring water to Miyako Elementary School on Miyako Island, Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture.
 
Around 900 residents of the island evacuated to the gymnasium of Miyako Elementary School immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake. About 20 residents of Ohama, one of the island’s villages, remain there now, and it has been only two days since 24-hour electricity was re-established.
 
In cooperation with Onikobe Onsen (hot spring) in the Naruko Onsen area of Miyagi Prefecture, hot spring water has been delivered by tank truck to a bath in the elementary school playground prepared by the Self-Defense Force. Hot baths are offered from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day except Sunday, with access rotating between men and women each day.
 
April 27th – There are two bathtubs in the tent. The rear tub is used for washing and rinsing, while the tub in the foreground is for soaking. The space in front is used for changing. (Higashi-Matsushima city, Miyagi Prefecture)
 
Giving people a little chance to relax in the bath
  
People arrive promptly to enjoy the hot spring water at 4:00. The bath is open to anyone, not only those in the evacuation center, so residents come on foot, by bicycle and by car, with about 80 people visiting each day.
 
Today is men’s day. Mr. Toshiaki HIYAMA comes every day the bath is open, riding 1 km from his home. He told us, “I’ll pedal as far as I have to to get into this bath!” Mr. HIYAMA lives alone, and has been living off meals at the Self-Defense Force soup kitchen or eating bento (meal boxes) that are provided for survivors. “There are no shops near my house, so I have to go a long way to buy even little things,” he said. “It’s not easy, but everyone is having a hard time. At least I can live in my own house, so I can’t complain.”
 
After soaking in the bath, people can receive supplies such as coffee, biscuits, and popcorn in front of the tent.
Although people in the affected areas are still experiencing significant difficulties, they seem relaxed and comforted by their time in the hot spring water. We will continue this project until the end of the Golden Week holiday in May.
 
April 27th – “The water temperature is fantastic!” says Mr. HIYAMA, who comes to enjoy the hot springs by bicycle every day. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture)
 
 
April 27th – “Bathing is great. It’s refreshing,” says Mr. ONO, holding supplies of distributed coffee. He is staying at the evacuation center in Miyako Elementary School. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture)
 
April 27th – This specialized tank truck, provided by Manyo Club Co., Ltd., Kanagawa Prefecture, can maintain the temperature of hot spring water over long distances. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture) (Photo by Onikobe School)
 
April 27th – Members of the Self-Defense Force set up and manage the hot springs. Here hot water is stored in a container outside the tent so that it can be added to the tubs later. Miyako Elementary School can be seen in the background. (Higashi-Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture) (Photo by Onikobe School)
 
*This project has been carried out in cooperation with Manyo Club Co., Ltd.; Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture; Ascendia Inc.; Naruko Tourism Research Institute; Yamagakko Council; and AAR JAPAN.
 
Rapporteur:
 
  
Yoshitaka SUGISAWA (Tokyo Office)
Has been working at AAR since May 2010, in charge of domestic activities.
Worked in a private company after graduation from university before joining AAR.
Engaged in emergency assistance for flooding in Pakistan in 2010.
(Born in Ibaraki Prefecture)
 
 
April 30th, 2011

People with Disabilities and their Families – Lost to Evacuation Centers

AAR JAPAN has been engaging in relief activities in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, which was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake. This is a report from Ayumi YASUDA of the Emergency Relief Team.
 
We received a phone call from Ms. Miyako SAITO in Ishinomaki City, whom we had previously visited to provide relief supplies. She told us of three families that had children with disabilities staying at an evacuation center nearby, and they needed supplies. The next day, on April 22nd, we visited the families with food and daily necessities at a house on the premises of Hitakami-en, a rehabilitation facility for people with mental disabilities.
 
All three families lost their homes in the earthquake and moved to public evacuation centers. When their children had difficulty living with other evacuees, the families were introduced to this house by the Ishinomaki Shoshinkai Social Welfare Corporation, and they have been living here in obscurity since.
 
Can’t go to evacuation centers, can’t go to buy things
 
Ms. Yuko SAITO (58) lives with her two sons, the younger of whom, Kazuya (21), has severe mental disabilities. After the earthquake, they initially moved into an evacuation center at a high school before moving into the present house. For a time Kazuya didn’t speak due to the stress of the moves, but recently he finally began to find his voice. When I was talking with his mother, Kazuya tried to tell me that they had lost their house, saying, “House, bye-bye.”
 
Kazuya requires continuous care, and Ms. SAITO can rarely go out. When we gave her not only food but also nail clippers and ear picks as requested, she looked pleased and said, “We’ve received some urgently-needed supplies, but still lack some of the little things that we always took for granted before the earthquake. I feel unsettled without these things.”
 

April 22nd – When we gave her nail clippers and ear picks, Ms. Yuko SAITO (center) said, “The truth is that we lacked daily necessities like these.” Her son Kazuya has Down’s syndrome. (Left: Ayumi YASUDA, Emergency Relief Team, Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
 
“I though about covering her mouth with tape.”
  
Ms. Hatsue NITTA (69) now lives in the same house as Ms. SAITO, along with her daughter Chihiro (39), who has severe mental disabilities. They received mattresses and blankets at an evacuation center, and we provided them with sheets and covers. They had no choice but to leave the evacuation center where they had been staying after the earthquake because Chihiro yells every night. I got a sense of the immeasurable difficulties they had faced when Ms. NITTA told me, “I even thought about covering her mouth with tape.”
 
Ms. NITTA told me that she had just recovered from an illness herself, making it particularly difficult to live away from home while looking after her daughter. She said, “Those of us taking care of family members with disabilities are facing far greater difficulties than other families. We can’t stay in evacuation centers, but there’s no other place to go, either. We don’t know how long we can stay in this house, and I feel anxious every day.” I couldn’t say anything in reply to her words.
 

April 22nd – “We don’t know how long we can stay here,” Ms. NITTA says anxiously. Her daughter Chihiro (second from right) has severe mental disabilities. (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)
 
We hope to quickly deliver supplies to people who can’t go out
 
I’ve been visiting many evacuation centers over the past month, but seldom see people with disabilities in the big public evacuation centers. Finally driven out, they go back to their half-destroyed homes, or timidly shelter themselves in their relatives’ houses. Families cannot leave their children alone, so it’s difficult for them to go shopping or to get relief supplies.
 
I deeply feel that AAR JAPAN should provide support for these people above all. We will continue to make efforts to quickly meet the needs of people with disabilities and their families.

 
Rapporteur:
 
Ayumi YASUDA
Worked in Nepal as a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer after graduation from university,
then joined AAR. Born in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture.

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