Japan Disaster: CWS Emergency Appeal - Updated August 11, 2011

CWS has supported a broad group of partners in Japan, following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, including those under the umbrella grouping Japan Platform. Non-governmental organizations, including CWS's partners on the ground, are providing food and basic services, but further support is needed to continue their work, reports Takeshi Komino, head of emergencies for CWS-Asia/Pacific.

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

SITUATION:

A devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck the northeastern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, triggering a massive tsunami that washed away several coastal cities, destroyed critical infrastructure, crippling more than 7,000 businesses and was primarily responsible for the death of some 15,000 people.

Authorities have estimated the amount of debris left by the disaster at about 25 million tons – some 70 percent more than the Great Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, Japan, in 1995.  This is expected to take three years to clear.  Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima were the three worst hit prefectures.

Tens of thousands of people, whose homes have been totally or partially destroyed, are still living in evacuation centers or temporary shelters.  Huge gaps remain in providing food and basic services, including health care and schooling.  Non-governmental organizations, including CWS’s partners on the ground, are assisting to fill some of these gaps but need further support to continue their work, reports Takeshi Komino, head of emergencies for CWS-Asia/Pacific.

The government plans to build 80,000 temporary shelters, and construction is underway, but a number of difficulties need to be addressed for the benefit of the survivors.  There are frequent delays in construction because there are not enough contractors to do the work.  There is also a shortage of appropriate land, because of the damage wrought by the tsunami.  Some temporary shelters have been built directly in front of huge mounds of debris, Komino reports.

The location of the temporary shelters is also an issue.  Sixty temporary housing units were built in the schoolyard in Minami-Sanrikucho, in Miyagi Prefecture, disrupting pupils’ outdoor activities.  Unlike in the evacuation centers, evacuees living in the units have to prepare their own food, but there are no stores within walking distance.  Even where evacuees do have stores nearby, many have lost their livelihoods and have no income, making them reliant on hand outs from the government, family or friends.  In a Mainichi Shimbun poll, conducted in northeast Japan in June, 35 percent of respondents said they “have no prospects of making a living.”  The earthquake caused nearly 120,000 people in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures to lose their jobs.

Many survivors are reluctantly leaving the evacuation centers not only because of fear of losing community support networks, but also because people who have moved into temporary shelters are no longer eligible to receive support from the government for food and basic provisions.  Many of the survivors were self-employed, particularly in the coastal cities where fishing was a major industry.

Government capacity to cope with the disaster remains an ongoing problem, Komino reports, not just at the prefecture level, but also at the municipality level.  In Ishinomaki, one of the worst-hit cities, one third of government staff perished in the disaster.  The work of Japanese non-governmental organizations and non-profit organizations, such as those supported by CWS, are helping to fill some of the gaps left by understaffed and overstretched local governments.

RESPONSE:

CWS has supported a broad group of partners, including those under the umbrella grouping Japan Platform, or JPF, an international emergency humanitarian aid consortium of 32 Japanese non-governmental organizations, the business community and the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  CWS has supported work with JPF partner NICCO.  Others receiving CWS support have included NGOs Peace Boat, SEEDS Asia and Oxfam Japan.

What follows, by partner, is a listing of some of the accomplishments so far, based on an initial report of work through June.

  • Peace Boat
    Peace Boat has provided more than 68,000 hot meals to survivors, and a “central kitchen” remains open, and is providing an average of 1,500 meals per day.  Within 12 of the evacuation shelters supported by Peace Boat, the provision of equipment and distribution of ingredients has enabled the community of survivors to take responsibility themselves for meal planning and preparation.

    In the area of shelter, 760 homes or shops have been cleared of mud and cleaned.  Through the end of June, 20,200 volunteers (calculated as per person per day) have been active in mud clearing from houses, shops and ditches in Ishinomaki.  This work has also included removal of rotting fish which were strewn over several neighborhoods due to the destruction of a fish processing factory; clearing drains and irrigation ditches – these had been filled with sludge and rubble by the tsunami, meaning that drainage in the town was a major issue and health risk.

    While carrying out this work, Peace Boat has grown to understand the significance of the large proportion of fishing gear (nets, boats and other items) entangled in the debris.  In order to support the recovery of the fishing industry, which is crucial in Ishinomaki, Peace Boat is now providing volunteer teams tasked with salvaging and cleaning the fishing equipment and returning it to the city’s fishermen in order that it can be re-used to boost the recovery of lost jobs.  Cleaning the port area of the city is also a priority for the same reason.
  • NICCO
    Nicco has run and overseen six disinfestation operations: in Osabe District, Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture; a refrigerated warehouse in Otsuchi-cho, Kamihei-gun, Iwate Prefecture; a seafood processing factory in Yamada-cho, Shimohei-gun, Iwate Prefecture; a gymnasium used as a mortuary (700 square meters) in Yamada-cho, Shimohei-gun, Iwate Prefecture; an area near Osabe fishing port (the southern bank of Osabe River) in Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture; and an area around a seafood processing factory in Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture.
  • SEEDS-Asia
    SEEDS-Asia has provided clerical and logistical support to Kesennuma Reconstruction Association, known as KRA, to assist it in providing job opportunities to the unemployed who are affected directly or indirectly by tsunami.  SEEDS Asia opened its project office inside the KRA office in Kesennuma on June 10.  SEEDS Asia and KRA are undertaking the preliminary surveys in temporary housing sites.  The project, aimed at assisting shelter residents to generate income, began in July.
  • Oxfam Japan
    Assisted in connecting callers needing psychosocial assistance to counselors. In all, 5,398 referrals were made.

In addition, CWS supported medical efforts by NICCO during the initial emergency phase.  CWS will support a childcare program that will start in September and will run through June of 2012.

BUDGET:  Total is $4,726,468.  That includes $375,000 for medical services; $2,861,700 for meal and food provision; $150,000 for counseling services; $546,900 for debris clearance and disinfecting; $232,375 for matching housing services; $292,833 for services to children; $267,660 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.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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