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Japan earthquake emergency appeal

Takeshi Komino/ACT/CWS

On 11 March, a massive earthquake struck the north-eastern coast of Japan. A massive earthquake-triggered tsunami washed away several coastal cities. More than 15,000 have been confirmed dead, and 7,000 more remain unaccounted for. In the hardest-hit prefectures of Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi, almost 200,000 people have been evacuated from their homes. Act for Peace's partners working in Japan have provided emergency assistance to people affected by the disaster. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake which struck off the north-eastern coast of Japan on 11 March has caused suffering and destruction on an unimaginable scale. More than 460,000 people are now living in makeshift shelters or evacuation centres, where the number of people arriving exceeds the capacity in terms of provision of space, food, water, and toilets.

Act for Peace and our partner Church World Service (CWS) responded to the emergency working with a coalition of 32 Japanese agencies to provide emergency relief to 25,000 people at 100 evacuation sites in the northeast of Japan.

CWS provided emergency relief support to at least 5,000 families living at 100 evacuation sites in the northeastern area of Japan. Assistance included immediate required food items and non-food items, delivered through a partnership with the Japan Platform, an alliance of humanitarian organisations who have come together to respond to the emergency.

One year on, Act for Peace's partner CWS shares with us their work to rebuild lives.

Addressing changing needs

Our project partner responded immediately to the emergency, mobilising health services and providing hot meals for thousands of evacuees in the cities of Natori, Iwanuma and Rikuzentakata. Working through a local agency, they facilitated the provision of pest control services in Rikuzentakata and other cities, keeping a persistent “fly problem” in check, in both residential and industrial areas. After training local government officials and building a coordination mechanism between municipal governments, the organisation was able to roll out and expand the project to cope with pest prevalence on a larger scale, coordinating with the municipal governments of 13 cities and towns in three prefectures, acquiring more funds from other donors.

Focus on communities

Providing psychosocial support is one of the key elements to CWS’s program in Japan. Meeting the psychosocial needs of the survivors has become more important since their move from evacuation centres into temporary housing units. The psychosocial support that CWS has been providing includes a mix of informal and formal approaches. CWS provided support for the initial phase of a program that provides professional psychosocial services in Rikuzentakata city. Twice-weekly activities, some of which are aimed at the elderly, included physical and occupational therapy in the form of lectures and workshops. Mental health screening is also conducted.

Supporting women and children

Act for Peace’s partner, CWS, has recently partnered with Caring for Young Refugees, a local organisation dedicated to supporting children, mothers and child care providers in post-disaster situations. It supports community day-care spaces for earthquake and tsunami survivors in evacuation sites and temporary housing, and is helping provide locally purchased school kits to children’s day care service centres.

CWS has also been supporting women and children through the Polaris Project Japan, which has distributed 52,000 safety cards, designed by medical professionals and other groups working on the ground to promote the provision of a safe environment for women and children. These cards were distributed to women and children with feminine hygiene supplies, including shampoo, soap, and skin care products in disaster affected areas. CWS has also been helping a local NGO to run a phone hotline for women suffering from sexual abuse and domestic violence. Reports of such cases have increased since the March 11 disaster in the affected areas.

One partner, Peace Boat, has been hard at work, initially providing hot meals – over 100,000 of them – then clearing people’s houses of mud and debris. It then widened its focus on the rehabilitation of factories and other infrastructure. In total, around 2,000 structures, including houses, offices, factories, shops and schools have been cleaned. By establishing and maintaining direct contact with survivors through these activities, it was able to identify and respond to other needs in the temporary housing communities. 

As such, it continues its work distributing a newsletter to more than 4,000 temporary homes; assisting with the improvement of the environments of the temporary housing areas to enhance evacuees’ quality of life; and helping residents in Ishinomaki city to organize traditional local festivals, including the Kawabiraki Festival and the Ishinomaki Light and Art Festival — all of which contribute to community-building.

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