Since Friday, March 11th, AAR JAPAN has been engaged in aid activities for survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake. With its hardest-hit areas located far from major city centers, Iwate Prefecture has been slow to recover compared to neighboring Miyagi Prefecture. Yuki DAIZUMOTO, who has been based in the Morioka Office and engaged in aid activities in Iwate Prefecture, reports on the present situation of AAR JAPAN’s efforts in the area.
From Sudan to the Disaster Area
On April 1st, AAR JAPAN opened its office in Morioka City as a base for relief operations in Iwate Prefecture. Many of our target facilities for people with disabilities and the elderly are located on the coast, so we spend a few hours every day going to the disaster zone.
I heard about the Great East Japan Earthquake while working in Sudan. I came back to Japan at the end of March, and then started to work in Morioka on April 7th. When I first visited the disaster area, it was some time before I could truly believe that the scene I had seen on the news now lay before me. I still clearly remember an old woman pointing to it all and murmuring, “There was a house there, and a bookshop next to it.” Not even the slightest sign of a building could be recognized.
Survivors are pleased to receive fresh food, which is rarely provided due to the difficulty of long-term storage. Yuki DAIZUMOTO (center) distributes oranges at a facility for people with disabilities. (Photo by Satoshi TAKAHASHI)
Rapidly Changing Needs
More than two months have passed since the earthquake, and circumstances have been changing in the disaster area. Rubble removal has progressed, supplies are being distributed, and there are more cars on the roads. In some areas, traffic jams occur where roads are closed for reconstruction work on the power lines. However, there are still other areas where the Self-Defense Force is searching for the missing, where water has yet to be reconnected, and there are no shops at all. While we refer to it all as the “disaster zone”, each part is different.
Requests from survivors have been changing. While previously they asked for drinking water and food with a long shelf life, these days we have been distributing fresh food such as vegetables and fruit, clothes for spring and summer, electric fans, and office supplies such as computers and printers that are necessary for facility operations. Local needs have been changing rapidly from fundamental life support supplies to the resources needed for a normal, productive life.
Strengthening Support for People with Disabilities, the Elderly, and Evacuees in Their Homes
Compared to Miyagi Prefecture, in Iwate Prefecture there is less information available about groups involved in supporting people with disabilities and the elderly, so we keep in close contact with each individual group and facility to keep abreast of their situations. Some people visit care facilities from their homes, which means they are likely to be omitted from lists of supply distribution, as these predominantly focus on evacuation centers. We need to strengthen our support for survivors in their homes to ensure that help gets to everyone.
At the request of the Iwate Prefectural Office, AAR JAPAN has also been cooperating in establishing systems to support a variety of tasks such as confirming the safety and whereabouts of survivors and distributing donations in order to contribute to each survivor’s quick recovery.
As Iwate Prefecture covers a large area, the number of groups working here is still not sufficient to meet the region’s needs. We will continue to watch the situation carefully to ensure that no-one is left out, and that we do not overlook even the smallest voice calling for support.
Aid activities in both Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures still face many challenges, and we thank you deeply for your continued support.
AAR JAPAN has also been aiding in the reconstruction of damaged facilities for people with disabilities and the elderly.
Yuki DAIZUMOTO (Morioka Office)
Worked in private companies and government organizations after graduation from university
Worked in AAR JAPAN Sudan Office from 2009
Stationed in Morioka Office from April 2011, engaged in aid and relief activities for survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake in Iwate Prefecture
(Born in Hyogo Prefecture)