Relief Assistance for Tohoku Earthquake Affected

by Japan Emergency NGO (JEN)
A photo shows Tohoku has been recovering
A photo shows Tohoku has been recovering

Currently, JEN is working on partnership-based projects, in which we provide funding and technical support to its partners. The partners are local NPOs or organizations involving in support activities for marginalized people in disaster-affected areas.

In June 2016, JEN became with a partner of Fukushima Midwife Association and began supporting for “Comprehensive Pregnancy and Baby Support Project.” Midwives are experts in helping expectant mothers, nursing mothers, as well as their babies, both physically and mentally. Only people passed the national exam can work as midwives unless they already have nursing qualifications.

According to “the Survey on Expectant Mothers and Nursing Mothers” conducted by Fukushima Prefecture in 2014, 12 percent of those mothers in Fukushima suffered from postpartum depression , which was 3 percent higher than the national average. Frequent phone calls and consultation requests for help from the Midwife Association indicate that many mothers are concerned about both of their mental and health conditions or the mothers are isolated from the society causing absence of child care assistance.

After the earthquake, many families with young children left Fukushima to escape from the critical living conditions. Since those who chose to stay and to feel anxiety about the children’s health, Fukushima Prefecture implemented a policy which grants mothers and babies short stays at maternity centres. Besides being commissioned to perform this plan, the Fukushima Midwife Association is also conducting its own project of providing:

- Pre-prenatal classes;

- Places for nursing mothers to communicate with each other;

- Well balance meals for mothers and babies due to encouraging proper infant diets.

Five years have passed since the earthquake, yet this kind of mother and baby support projects are still little known to see across the nation. The projects will regularly carry on mothers and babies support among other local authorities in Fukushima Prefecture. Therefore, we will be supporting the Association on funding, presenting the project of the Association to the local authorities, and preparing necessary documents for policy promotion targeting other local governments, until December 2018.

Well balanced meal
Well balanced meal

On the 11th March 2016, it is the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan earthquake.
Even though many people in Tohoku experienced great fear at that day in 2011, now you can see various restoration endeavours are taking place in the region. JEN is putting its efforts into the recovery by providing a wide range of assistance to four partner organisations involved in unique activities that address people who tend to be left behind by the recovery.

In Iwate Prefecture, JEN has been in partnership with “INCLU IWATE”, an NPO dedicated to supporting single-parent households that we support their initiative “Children’s Cafeteria” since its launch in January, 2016 in Morioka city.

Over 80 percent of Japan’s single parents with job and more than half of them are living in low income; these parents are apt to be isolated from the society. In Morioka city, you can see such households who moved from the coastal regions after the earthquake and began to settle down in the city.

INKLU IWATE and its “Children’s Cafeteria” initiative are expected to change the present situation where single parents and their children easily become socially isolated. The day of opening the Children’s Cafeteria, which runs occasionally, provides single parent households with not only nutritiously well-balanced meals, but also comprehensive support, for example: providing useful information; giving consultation service; learning support for children, and supporting the single parents who quickly access family and child benefits.
Also, INKLU IWATE is going to open the second “Children’s Cafeteria” in the earthquake affected coastal areas.

The first picture shows – the volunteer cooked well-balanced meals. Many of the ingredients are contributions by local farmers or NPO’s.

The second picture shows – the day care centre offers the “Children’s Cafeteria”. The lady on the right is a dietitian, and the lady on the left is a counsellor, they prepare a meal with volunteers.

The specialists
The specialists
A partner organization, "Nursing Care for Men"
A partner organization, "Nursing Care for Men"

From the past experiences in Japan, it is said that there is an increase number of the victims who says that “the most depressing time comes three or four years after the disaster”. It is also evidenced by the various psychological studies.

Walking in the devastated area makes us realize that the reconstruction has not been made a progress yet. The reconstruction in the central city has been done. However; if we walk away from the city center, we see the bulldozers running in the devastated area by Tsunami.

The psycho-social of the recovery tends to be missed compared with the infrastructure because of its difficulty to be found out. As more time has been passed since the disaster, the problems, which existed before such as the number of youths decreasing, nursing care and poverty, have got worse.

Therefore, since October 2015, it is for the long-term solution in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures. JEN has shifted from its previous approach as a direct assistance to the victims to so-called “partnership” assistance with the local organizations.

As for the partnership, JEN works not only for providing the necessary material for their activities, but also for making plans together and providing a training to strengthen their ability to implement projects and building networks.

In Ishinomaki, JEN has a partnership with the local organization “Nursing Care for Men”. After the disaster, a lot of elderly couples are forced to live in their own, while being separated from their other family members. With the help of the medical and nursing experts, we are organizing a nursing care class for men to reduce men’s distress from nursing the elderly women, and their isolation. It also aimed to encourage the quality of lives of both nursing and being nursed people.


Aiming at Solving Regional, Social Challenges: SAVE TAKATA

As JEN started to provide a new form of support, this time, we introduce one of the organizations which we have a partnership: SAVE TAKATA. It is a general incorporated association acting in Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture.

It was after the Great East Japan Earthquake happened on March 11, 2011 that Mr. Nobuaki Sasaki from Rikuzen-Takada established SAVE TAKATA. Mr. Sasaki who had been working in Tokyo determined to drive back to his home town along with his friends from the same town with as many relief supplies on their cars as possible. Then he began volunteering to put out the information on the ground on the Internet, that’s how SAVE TAKATA started.

The population of the city of Rikuzen-Takata was declining before the disaster. However, this has been exacerbated by the outflow of young generations following the disaster.

The organization is working on helping farmers produce and market processed apples, the unemployed young find jobs by providing farming experiences, the youth acquire IT vocational skills, and students do volunteer activities. Thus, SAVE TAKATA aims to resolve both regional challenges which aging population and outflow of young people and social one which rise in unemployed young.

The goal of SAVE TAKATA is to build up rural areas where young generations can live with hope. With the partnership-based support from JEN, its members went on a tour to other rural areas in Japan to study how the locals have got through depopulation and promoted revitalization of the hometown on their own. Based on the findings from the tour as well as its activities up until now, the organization is planning to launch a new initiative to reach its goal.

Agricultural Support by SAVE TAKATA (C)
Agricultural Support by SAVE TAKATA (C)
A renewed school in Ishinomaki
A renewed school in Ishinomaki

By this September 11th, four and a half years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, as it makes us realize how quickly time flies.

Ishinomaki, though worst affected by the earthquake, is now recovering. The renovation works on schools in the city have finished, and so children have moved from awkward makeshift classrooms to their renewed schools, returning to their normal school lives. The city’s key industry, fishery, has recovered to the extent that its fish haul reached as high as 80 percent of the pre-quake level. To support the industry Ishinomaki fish market was reconstructed and now the renewal into the world-class market. With the construction of coast infrastructure and housing for affected people proceeding at a fast pace, many supporting organizations are seen to take initiative to boost local development.

While efforts to construct 4,500 public housing units for affected people by 2017 are now underway in Ishinomaki, there are still 133 cramped temporary quarters where as of August 1st, 4,988 households are suffering from many inconveniences. Temporary quarters are becoming empty every day, as people continue moving to the public housing units to settle in new neighbourhoods. The difference between neighbourhoods that are ready to brace these people and ones that are not is becoming visible, which is presenting a new challenge.

It is said that the local government has no plan to integrate temporary quarters within this year, but the people fear that necessity impels it to hasten the plan.

You can see Ishinomaki continues developing day by day, but people living in the disaster stricken areas feel like “we have a long way to go to return to normal.” JEN will continue supporting those of the locals until they can live with peace of mind.

Next Support Activities to Move onto

Since setting up its liaison office in Ishinomaki, JEN has been making continued efforts to support recovering local communities, and has decided to close the office at the end of this October because the needs for on-site activities have changed. From November onwards,, our continued support to the communities will be delivered through recovery assistance organizations based in the disaster hit areas those of which are: Iwate Prefecture; Miyagi Prefecture, and Fukushima Prefecture in order to encourage local’s power to live.

Record-breaking rainfall in September breached levees in inland areas of Miyagi Prefecture, causing immense damages on the areas. Responding to calls by an organization working in the Oshika Peninsula after the earthquake, locals in Ishinomaki voluntarily joined clearing houses of sludge in the flood-ravaged areas.

These days, we can expect disasters caused by torrential rains, volcano eruptions, and landslides anywhere at any time. It is vital for us to do something to help disaster evacuees in corporation with others in times of emergency. What is heartening to us is that there are willing helpers among people who have experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake, as we saw in the recent flooding where people in Ishinomaki took a prompt action in corporation with organizations.

The city of Ishinomaki was heavily damaged by the earthquake, but thanks to the support from all over the world. The city’s key industry has achieved to be reconstructed and the communities are gradually recovering, and also new innovative movements are found to be created.

A new public house unit
A new public house unit
Ochakokai as a tea party
Ochakokai as a tea party

52 Months on; Continued Efforts to Find Missing Persons

Four years and four months passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and efforts to restore crumbled infrastructure including roads and dikes continue in disaster-hit areas. Landscapes have changed accordingly with signs of the damage caused by the earthquake and the tsunami disappeared, leaving less and less traces that reveal the ravage of the disaster.

In the city of Ishinomaki, the worst hit area, as many as 3,453 people lost their lives either directly or indirectly by the disaster and 428 are still missing. Even now the search activities for the missing people are carried out on the 11th of each month.

Combing a vast area for missing persons began this month in Nagatsura district, Ishinomki. The areas situated at the mouth of the Kitakami River, Nagatsura district was inundated due to land sinking subsequent to the earthquake. While the Self-Defense Forces searched the district from boats right after the earthquake, no search activities have been conducted since then. The completion of dike restoration work accelerated the pace of draining the district, and made it possible to conduct full-scale search activities.

The tsunami destroyed dikes and submerged the right section of the Kitakami River’s downstream areas including not only Nagatsura district but Okawa district where a total of 2,489 people of 712 households used to live, killing 382 people including 84 pupils and teachers of Okawa elementary school and leaving 36 people including four pupils missing.

Disaster restoration housing is now ready to receive victims living in temporary quarters, signaling post-quake restoration is rolling forward. In this situation JEN continues helping disaster victims find their way back to normal as soon as they can.


Volunteer Work Turns into a New Style: 16th “Let’s go to the sea!”

“Let’s go to the sea!” a project launched in March 2014 as a new style of volunteer work so that you might support disaster stricken areas while enjoying hands-on opportunities in tour around fishing communities, has been hosted by “the executive committee of ‘Let’s go to the sea!’“ composed of locals in the Oshika Peninsula, Miyagi Prefecture with JEN’s support.

Supporting  the committee become more self-reliant, JEN opted to take only background role in 2015. Pleia Tourism, a non-profit organization established by the students of Ishinomaki Sensyu University, Ishinomaki’s only university, began to take part in hosting the project, young people uniting together with locals to promote the communities in the Oshika Peninsula.

The 16th “Let’s go to the sea!” was held on Saturday 23rd of May and following Sunday. Day 1: Ochakokai, a tea party with the staff members of “Why not stop by Oshika,” a mutual aid organization, at Kyubunhama on the Oshika Peninsula; a visit to eleven headed deity, a national important property. Day 2: fishing experience guided by local fishermen at Sasunohama, participation in the San Juan festival. A lot of plans were worked out at the tour. Participants came from many countries and regions, including, Taiwan, China, Tokyo, Sendai and so on.

The participants were heard to make such comments as “I visited many places, met and talked to various people. I’m really glad to have this opportunity. This tour offered experiences that I can’t have in Tokyo. I had productive two days.”

Just wait for the next framework of “Let’s go to the sea!” is finalized by the committee. The committee will take the initiative in planning and running.

Fishing experience at Sasunohama
Fishing experience at Sasunohama

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Organization Information

Japan Emergency NGO (JEN)

Location: Tokyo, n/a - Japan
Website: http:/​/​​en/​index.php
Project Leader:
Miyako Hamasaka
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Japan

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