Japan Disaster: Updated CWS Emergency Appeal

Due to the magnitude of the disaster in Japan, it is evident that the country's domestic resources will not be enough and they really do need outside assistance. CWS's response continues to center on emergency relief support to at least 5,000 families living at evacuation sites in the northeastern part of the country.

A family walks past rubble in Japan

Many evacuees stayed outside overnight despite snow and freezing temperatures.  CWS’ Takeshi Komino: "Survivors that I interviewed echo the same point that relief efforts reported in the media are not consistently reaching them, which tells us there is a huge variation on where needs are somewhat being met, and not being met at all.  The future is unforeseen for them, and they really do need our help."  Photo: Takeshi Komino/CWS


On March 11, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck the northeastern coast of Japan, causing widespread and serious damage to infrastructure and to human life.  A massive earthquake-triggered tsunami followed, washing away large parts of several coastal cities.  The worst affected areas were Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures.  The subsequent and ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continues to pose an additional, and grave, challenge to an already serious situation.

According to a March 25 report by Kyoto University, Citigroup expects the disaster to cost 5-10 trillion yen in damages to housing and infrastructure, while Barclays Capital estimates economic losses in the region of 15 trillion yen – about US $183.7 billion, roughly three percent of Japan’s GDP.  The Japanese government has described the destruction and crisis as the "worst since World War II."

As of March 27, 17,000 people are still missing; 10,489 died and thousands more have been injured, according to police figures, and those numbers are expected to rise.  There are still approximately 300,000 people living in more than 2,300 evacuation sites across Japan, though there are hundreds of thousands – perhaps as many as 500,000 – who remain in their homes but are dependent on the sites because there is a lack of available food, stoves, fuel and other necessary items.

There are also reports that many people are suffering from influenza and diarrhea at evacuation sites and that medicines are not reaching them consistently.  Those with pre-existing conditions and the aged populations are particularly vulnerable.  Phone lines are also down and mobile phones are not working across a number of affected regions so many people are unable to contact their family members or check whether their family members have survived.  In Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture, no infrastructure has been restored since the earthquake.  One third of the city’s government officials lost their lives.  As a result, there has been virtually no humanitarian coordination, and the distribution of relief items has been stalled.

Other challenges: storing dead bodies; clearing rubble; hospitals that remain closed or are limited in services they can provide.  Also, in some areas, humanitarian supplies remain in short supply, with only a third of the food needs being met; while there are reports that in other areas, no humanitarian supplies have yet been delivered.  In part, this is due to continued shortage in adequate fuel supplies.

Takeshi Komino, CWS Asia/Pacific's head of emergencies, who is coordinating CWS efforts in Tokyo, said this: "Due to the magnitude of four disasters happening at once – a 9.0 earthquake, tsunami, nuclear threat, and freezing winter weather in affected areas – it is evident that even a very developed country like Japan is not able to cope with its domestic resources only.

"Survivors that I interviewed echo the same point, that relief efforts reported in the media are not consistently reaching them, which tells us there is a huge variation on where needs are somewhat being met, and not being met at all.  The future is unforeseen for them, and they really do need our help."


As noted in the March 16 appeal, CWS's response centers on emergency relief support to at least 5,000 families, about 25,000 individuals, now living at 100 evacuation sites in the northeastern area of Japan – the prefectures of Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate, Ibaragi and Tochigi.

This revised appeal elaborates and, in some cases, modifies or changes activities outlined in CWS’ initial appeal.

CWS is working with the following partners:

  • Japan Platform, an international emergency humanitarian aid consortium of 32 Japanese non-governmental organizations, the business community and the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Peace Boat, a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment.  In this emergency, Peace Boat has been mobilizing its extensive network of volunteers for relief efforts in Ishinomaki City of Miyagi Prefecture.
  • Civic Force is a registered not-for-profit organization in Japan that was established in the wake of the Niigata Earthquake in 2004.  Its mission is to provide swift and effective emergency services in case of large-scale crises in Japan.
  • Japan Lutheran Emergency Relief, known by the acronym JLER, has been formed by the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church, Kinki Evangelical Lutheran Church, Japan Lutheran Church and West Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church specifically as a response to the current crisis.  Based on their extensive church networks as well as networks with private sector, the members of JLER will organize logistics service with transportation and wholesale companies to ensure rapid transportation of relief items based on needs identified.
  • OXFAM Japan began its work in December 2003 and is working in the current emergency to support work not being met by any other groups.
  • National Christian Council in Japan, known as NCCJ, is a grouping of 33 member and associate member churches and organizations.  The networks to which NCCJ relates include the Christian Conference of Asia and the World Council of Churches.

CWS-supported assistance to some 25,000 individuals began on March 21 and will continue through September. Activities 1 and 2 (below) have begun and the rest will be phased in over coming weeks.

  1. With JPF (specifically, JPF Partner NICCO) in Miyagi prefecture (Natori City and Iwanuma City) and Iwate Prefecture (Rikuzentakata City).
    Work focuses on stationary clinics and mobile medical services to serve at least 7,500 individuals, with Tohoku International Clinic in Natori City in Miyagi Prefecture serving as the hub for stationary medical services.  Mobile medical teams will be sent out to Iwanuma City, as well as Rikuzentakata City, where most of city government functions have been lost due to the tsunami.  Also: Distribution of basic hygiene items, temporary toilets and communications services for at least 5,000 individuals in evacuation centers.
  2. With Peace Boat, Civic Force and JLER, in Miyagi prefecture (Ishinomaki and Kesennuma City).
    Work focuses on the distribution of requested relief items from evacuation centers which include food, water, hygiene items, clothing and fuel to at least 10,000 individuals.  Based on needs identified by evacuation centers in Ishinomaki (Peace Boat) and Kesennuma Cities of Miyagi Prefecture (Civic Force), partners will arrange 4-10 ton trucks to go from Tokyo to Ishinomaki/Kesennuma City to ensure basic relief items reach these centers, filling some of the humanitarian gaps.
  3. With OXFAM Japan – Iwate Prefecture (Ofunato City, Miyako City and Kamaishi City).
    Work focuses on counseling services for pregnant women and women with young children (1,500 individuals).  Working together with Oxfam’s partner, Japan Organization for International Cooperation on Family Services, this response will secure safe and private spaces for these women and children living in crowded evacuation sites.
  4. With NCCJ – Miyagi, Iwate, Fukushima Prefectures.
    Work focuses on matching services for housing offers from member churches for 1,000 individuals.  Offers of housing are being collected and recorded by NCCJ’s central office in Tokyo and local churches are assisting in matching families who are hoping to share rooms in houses offered.  NCCJ is assisting these families with transportation and utility expenses.

Komino of CWS reports that "needs are diversifying rapidly in the field, and aid agencies are required to cope with this trend."  He notes that "it was evident that government-led efforts are too slow to cope with such needs on the ground.  In such cases, partner agencies' volunteers who are stationed in the field working with the affected population on a daily basis will play a key role in identifying needs and matching them with supply."

This will help CWS and its partners "to identify communities’ changing needs much more precisely and faster" and will enable CWS "to target the most vulnerable, including those who remain home and are unable to go to evacuation sites," Komino said.

BUDGET:  Total is $2,827,000.  This includes $375,000 for medical services; $1,950,000 for relief items and distribution; $150,000 for counseling services; $200,000 for matching housing services; $152,000 for CWS and partner operation costs.

HOW TO HELP:  Contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts may be made online, sent to your denomination, or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.  (Appeal #699-Y)

Church World Service is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.


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