HOTLINE - week of May 9, 2011

Japan: psychological toll mounts in the wake of disaster; Growing Healthier means food security in Latin America.

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Destruction like this shown in northeastern Japan's Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture is now a sadly common sight.
Photo: Takeshi Komino/CWS

Japan: psychological toll mounts in the wake of disaster

For survivors, the destruction wrought by the March 11 twin disasters on Japan’s northeastern coast is more than physical; it includes devastation on a deeply personal, emotional level.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the massive tsunami resulting from it took from survivors their loved ones, friends and neighbors. Their homes and businesses. Their local support systems, schools and medical facilities. Tens of thousands of people have been killed or wounded, and around 120,000 are still living in evacuation sites. Hundreds of orphaned children are still waiting for their parents, who may never be found.

How does one find a “new normal,” when daily life has become anything but that? The truth is they don’t – not without help. In Rikuzentakada city in the Iwate Prefecture, CWS head of emergency response in the Asia/Pacific region Takeshi Komino spoke to a survivor who burst into tears when the topic turned to the tsunami. “She said she was really sorry she couldn’t save the people she was holding hands with.”

“We consider this ‘survivor’s guilt’ to be a serious problem,” says Komino. “We’re talking about tens of thousands of people – who need someone to talk to.”

CWS is working with its partners in Japan to provide not just medical services but also psychosocial care as well. In Rikuzentakada, a physician, a clinical psychologist and two nurses have traveled to 10 locations officially appointed as core shelters. They have also made some individual visits to patients unable to come to a clinic or core shelter.
It is also becoming apparent that sexual abuse and assault are occurring in evacuation sites, notes Komino. Women and children are especially at risk. CWS and its partners have been providing counseling services for pregnant women and those with young children living in evacuation sites, and securing safe, private spaces for them within the sites.

“In these uncertain times,” says Komino, “it is really critical for our CWS team and our partners to be with the survivors – to go through the whole process with these people, by their side.”

Check out the newest video on earthquake response in Japan.

To help now, text CWS to 50555 to donate $10, or  donate online at

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Growing Healthier means food security in Latin America

CWS and local partners in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have launched “Growing Healthier,” a food and nutritional security program that promotes access to nutritious food all year round, every year.

The first step was a study to determine the food production of the 1,245 families involved in the program and the nutritional condition of their children under 5. Despite gains in food security, the study found malnutrition persists, due to inadequate water systems, scant nutrition education and poor practices.

The program focuses on helping families establish year-round diversified, organic and sustainable production – including grains, vegetables, fruits and small livestock – and providing them with nutritional education and monitoring. The program also includes access to seed banks, water systems, worm farms to produce compost, and biodigestors to produce gas for cooking.

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