How Disaster-affected Children Are Living “Today”
“I lost a lot of precious people and things such as family, friends and a home, but since the earthquake, I have learned about the kindness of people and how tough it is to keep living. Now I can feel grateful about everything.”
Recently, we received such messages from high school and college students who were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The messages are part of the essays we received from scholars of Civic Force’ s “Dream Support Project,” which supports students in Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate prefectures with scholarships and support programs.
The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011 and the ensuing tsunami inflicted enormous damages, including over 18,000 people dead or missing. As many parents lost their children, many children also lost their loved ones including their parents, relatives and friends.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of bereaved children and orphans who lost one or both parents in the earthquake totaled 1,723 as of 2012. These children must adapt not only to changes in their home environment but also to changes in their study environment, such as familiar school buildings destroyed and left unrepaired as well as school grounds being used for temporary housing. In particular, many children have been forced to evacuate from some areas of Fukushima Prefecture, which has been affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. Reconstruction of schools, which are the core of each local community, and mental health care of children are major issues that must be addressed together with the reconstruction of the disaster-affected regions as a whole.
Three and a half years have passed since the earthquake. In this Monthly Report, we will portray how children in Tohoku, are facing forward and proactively tackling new challenges “today” while carrying the burden of the memories of “that day.”
During the summer holidays in August, Civic Force held a three-day hands-on training in Tome City and Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture, and a networking event for the scholars of the “Dream Support Project” in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures. We will also report on these events in this issue.
In addition, we will report on the relief activities for the landslide disaster which occurred in Hiroshima Prefecture in August, a joint disaster drill held in Aichi Prefecture on National Disaster Prevention Day, and the “Jinseki-Kougen Tour” held in Hiroshima Prefecture for residents of Fukushima who are planning to relocate.
Please be informed that the Monthly Report, which has been published on the 11th of every month following the earthquake, will be discontinued after this issue and our next report will be released as a newsletter in December. Please refer to page 4 for more information.
Thank you for your continuous support for Civic Force.
More than 320,000 people dead, about 620,000 people injured and about 220 trillion yen of economic loss—. According to an announcement by the government, these are some of the estimated damages that will result from the anticipated Nankai Trough Earthquake. The government set a goal to reduce this figure by 80 percent by taking measures in the next 10 years.
Attaining this goal means that concrete measures must be taken in each area because the government and local municipalities are limited in terms of what they can do. Civic Force is now focusing all its efforts on disaster preparedness by utilizing the experiences and lessons learned in its activities following the 2011 disasters.
The 40th monthly report focuses on a disaster drill conducted in Aichi Prefecture on June 15, and a joint drill conducted on June 20 and 21 in Okayama Prefecture, which was organized by the Self-Defense Forces.
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.
Please find the attachment for the further information.
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.
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