The Philippines: Helping People Rebuild Their Homes

The devastating typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 8th, 2013, affecting more than 16 million victims.  Furthermore, over 1.14 million houses were destroyed or damaged. AAR Japan has been conducting research and providing relief supplies to support these victims, with a focus on providing aid to people with disabilities, who may otherwise be unable to access vital aid. Juri HIROYA (AAR Tokyo office) reports from the severely damaged Tacloban, Leyte Island.

Waste and Debris Scattered Throughout the Town

Tents in the coastal area. Most houses were swept away by the typhoon. (February 7th, 2014.)
In early February I arrived at the airport in Tacloban. The destruction caused by the typhoon is immediately visible. The roof of the terminal still requires repair and the luggage conveyers remain broken, forcing airport staff to screen luggage manually. Despite this difficult circumstance, the airport was quick to reopen to enable vital relief supplies to arrive in the wake of the disaster.
Little improvement has been achieved since my last visit in December, with trees and debris scattered throughout Tacloban. Despite the Philippine Government's attempt to install temporary housing, many people are forced to live in tents or houses which have been patched up with scrap material and plastic sheets.


Syria: “We cannot go back home. So we lead our lives here.” Towards a life of self-help in Turkey

Over three years have passed since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in March, 2011. 8,800,000 people, approximately the total population of Tokyo's 23 wards, have fled from their home country in order to escape the warzone and save the lives of their families (February, 2014: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA). Among them, 580,000 people live as refugees in Turkey, where the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) has been engaged in activities such as providing food and other basic necessities, supporting persons with disabilities, and preparing learning environments for children. Junko YANAGIDA reports on AAR's current and future support programs.

Ms. Nasim receives rehabilitation care from a physical therapist (left). After repeated treatments, the pain in her right arm has been diminishing and she is able to use it more freely (November 25th, 2013).


The Great East Japan Earthquake: Providing necessary support, concern for each person’s situation

Three years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. As time passes, the amount of news attention regarding the earthquake is decreasing and it seems that more and more people have come to think of the earthquake as part of the past. However, 274,088 people (as of December, 2013) are still relocating to other places.
Staffs and users of “Katatsumuri”, a welfare facility that we provided a vehicle operating pick-up and drop-off services for people using the facility. (December 26, 2013. Ofunato, Iwate)

Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, the prefectures where AAR Japan are conducting its activities, are facing various problems such as an aging population, depopulation due to relocation, and the ongoing  situation at nuclear power plants. Those factors are closely intertwined, and can cause longer and uneven setbacks in different areas. Some people have already rebuilt their houses by themselves, while some say that they don’t even know when they will be able to move into newly reconstructed houses and possible have to live in a temporary housing complex for rest of their lives. Even within the same temporary housing complexes, people are facing different problems. It’s necessary to respond to the individual issues.

As time passes, people’s needs have changed. At first, essential daily items such as food or a travelling clinic were in demand, followed by the need for electric appliances as construction on temporary housing complexes began. Then, our support shifted to reconstructing welfare facilities and shopping streets. And now, we are requested to be there to support every single person, and provide a timely and appropriate support that meets each person’s pace of recovery. For the elderly living alone in the temporary housing, we arrange places and opportunities at which they can seek counseling and support. For children living in high-radiation areas, we provide opportunities to play outside to their hearts’ content, without a fear of radiation. For a welfare facility hoping to find a new market, we suggest ideas to develop the market and provide equipment needed for production. We are providing various kinds of support and consultation for each person’s situation and actively make every effort to respond to their needs.
We visit meeting places in temporary housing complexes to provide massages service and active listening.
Left: Kazuya OMURO of AAR, Physiotherapist
(December 8, 2013 Ishinomaki, Miyagi)
Thank you to the continuous donation and assistance from both at home and abroad, victims of the earthquake have been able to start their new lives. One of the staff members of the welfare facility which we provided a vehicle and office equipment mentioned the positive attitude of a person with disability by telling the following story; He seldom went out before, but recently he began to come to our facility. His family told me that they heard him happily saying, “I’ve just come back from work (welfare facility)!”.

On the other hand, Ekuko YOKOYAMA of AAR Soma office, who has been conducting counseling and other related activities at the temporary housing complex, says, “Deeply affected by shock and sorrow, time has essentially stood still for many people since they lost their loved ones in the earthquake, and they have not been able to take the next step forward.” Three years is not enough time to heal the deep emotional wounds, so we still need to help them cope with their sorrow and anxiety.

To deliver your kindness and to reduce the number of people left behind from the recovery, we, the staff of AAR Tohoku office, visit disaster-stricken areas lying under the snowy sky today.
We deeply appreciate your thoughtful and continuous support.

Reported by: Akiko KATO, Representative of Tohoku Office
Ms. Kato had worked at Tokyo office since April 2010 and engaged in projects mainly related to Haiti and Zambia. Since March 2011, she has engaged in supporting project of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Since April 2013, she has been supervising this project as a representative of Tohoku Office. After graduating university, she worked for a private sector. And then studied social development at graduate school in the U.K. She joined AAR after working at a governmental research institution and a diplomatic mission. Originally from Tokyo.  (profile as of the date of the article)


Pakistan: What has been affecting children’s health besides the shortage of safe water?

Nowshera County of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa Province of Pakistan is located in the vicinity of the national border with Afghanistan. Here, people suffer from a serious shortage of clean drinking water and a lack of readily-available lavatories, which are taken for granted in Japan. Besides the ordinary residents of Nowshera, nearly 40,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and over 100,000 refugees from Afghanistan have been living here, but they are not provided with clean drinking water or sufficient lavatories. For the children living in this region, AAR Japan has been building and improving wells and lavatories in elementary schools and also providing programs to raise awareness about hygiene since 2011. This report is by Bunjiro HARA, staff member of AAR Japan Islamabad Office.

Children drink water and then suffer from diarrhea.

Nowshera, where AAR has been carrying out its activities, has no sewerage system and only 20% of this region has access to water supply. People mostly satisfy their need for water using wells, but the locations of some wells cause problems such as the infiltration of colon bacillus into the water through the surrounding drainage. As such, most of their water is not appropriate for drinking. However, there is no alternative water resource here. Our prior inquiry indicates that as many as 48% of the pupils of Pakistani public elementary schools and 69% of the pupils of Afghan refugees’ primary schools developed diarrhea within the past one month.
AAR’s support has enabled pupils to drink clean water.
At Mera Akora Khattak Pakistani Government Primary School for Boys.  (December 18th, 2013.)


South Sudan Emergency Aid: The Urgent Need for Water at Kakuma Refugee Camp

Since December 2013, the war in South Sudan has raged on and the turmoil continues. Many continue to flee into the into neighboring Kenya, where the Kakuma refugee camp is located. From February 3rd to the 8th, Naoki UMEDA and Daijo TSUCHIKAWA were AAR Japan's staff on the ground, sent to give emergency assistance and conduct research. Despite the swelling number of refugees, the camp suffers from severe water shortages. This is UMEDA reporting.

People Going Without Water in Severe Heat

AAR Japan's Naoki UMEDA (right) listening to details from a local aid group (Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. February 4th, 2014.)
From February 2nd, ongoing talks with both refugees and aid workers have made it clear that the need for water is the most urgent issue at hand.
Since December 15th last year, the number of South Sudanese who have arrived in Kakuma has already reached 14,000 <UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), 2014/2/5> . Many have endured a long journey, only to arrive and find they will likely receive below 10 liters of water on average per day, per person. In contrast, a single Japanese person uses around 300 liters per day (according to figures from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism), making the daily available amount in Kakuma only 1/30 to that of Japan. It is this small amount that must be used for everything from drinking water, to cooking and washing.


South Sudan: “I want to go to school by any means.” Education, the Hope at Refugee Camp

Because of continuous disorder caused by civil war in South Sudan since December 2013, more and more people have fled to Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, a neighboring country of South Sudan. In order to provide emergency assistance, Naoki UMEDA and Daiki TSUCHIKAWA, AAR staff members in South Sudan, visited the site on February 3rd to conduct a field survey. Despite increasing numbers of refugees, water supply is acutely inadequate at the camp. There also arises another problem of insufficient education for the children. Daiki TSUCHIKAWA reports on the latest situation.

Refugees are on the increase, but schools are insufficient

About 100,000 refugees from neighboring countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi, as well as South Sudan live in Kakuma Refugee Camp which was founded in 1992. Since many of the refugees are unable to return to their home countries, schools have been set up for these children. There are 6 nursery schools, 17 elementary schools, and 5 junior high schools in the camp. However, due to an influx of new refugees from South Sudan, they urgently need more schools.
Considering this situation, LWF (Luther World Federation), an international NGO, set up a new school at Kakuma Refugee Camp. On February 3rd, under the 5 tents provided by UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Fund), around 1,700 children ranging from kindergarten to 3rd grade of elementary school are studying in this new school. However, there’s no desks or chairs, only some mats on the ground. Although the number of children is expected to grow, the school has almost reached its capacity and children over 4th grade of elementary school are not accepted into the school.
5 tents are used as a school. However the school has almost reached its enrolment limit due to capacity constraints.
(Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, February 4th, 2014)

More schools and educational equipment, such as tents, strong enough to withstand sandstorms, and desks are in need for the growing numbers of children. The tents currently being used for schools are not strong enough and a lot of sand comes into the classroom. Although there are neither blackboards nor desks, the children are still anxious to study under the tough circumstances.
There are 17 teachers in the new school and they are all refugees. Former teachers and other dedicated people voluntarily teach the children. (Daiki TSUCHIKAWA (right) AAR staff: Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, February 4th, 2014)

Children gathering in the new “school”, which is a tent with no equipment. They are taking a lesson without any chairs or desks. (Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, February 4th, 2014)


Provide a place to study for youth, who have been robbed of their ordinary lives

Joseph is an 18 year old former soldier and a Nuer. He took part in the recent battle and while he was patrolling in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, he witnessed the soldiers of Dinka, the opponent ethic group, killing Nuer residents without hesitation. This convinced him that it was just a matter of time before he would be killed. Then, he threw away his weapon and escaped immediately. He changed buses and finally managed to reach Kakuma Refugee Camp. He said, “I’m glad that the public safety is maintained and nobody own firearms at the camp. I'm going to go to school.”
At Kakuma Refugee Camp, I encountered a number of young people who are eager to receive education. A boy in his late teens said, “In my hometown, I looked after cattle and goats and had no options for schooling. But I don’t have any livestock here. I want to start studying from the 1st grade of elementary school.”  A boy of 18 said, “I lost my parents and relatives in this battle and I came to the camp all by myself. I cannot tell what will happen to me, but I do want to go to school by any means.” Having education is a hope at the refugee camp not only for small children but also for young people who have been robbed of their ordinary lives.

Children gathering around AAR staff, Naoki Umeda after their class. (Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, February 4th, 2014)

AAR plans to continue its survey and provide refugees with much needed assistance such as water supply and educational support, coordinating with other humanitarian organizations so as not to duplicate the support. Activity reports will be updated on the AAR website. We appreciate your support.

We are collecting emergency donations.

Your support is greatly appreciated.
Click here to donate online.

Daiki TUCHIKAWA AAR JAPAN South Sudan Office (profile as of the date of the article)
Started working at AAR in October 2012. He has been dispatched to South Sudan since April 2013. After graduating from a university, he worked as a system engineer and senior high school teacher. Afterwards, majored development study at graduate school in Australia. Born in Iwate Prefecture and grew up in India.

Radio drama capturing the fear of landmines and UXOs airs in Sudan

Landmines and unexploded ordinance (UXO) from the civil war put people's lives at risk even after the conflict's end Until all the remaining landmines are cleared, AAR dedicates itself to educating the people in Sudan, Afghanistan, and Laos so that those living in landmine-affected areas will not become victims of such weapons. We advise them on how best to avoid becoming involved in landmine-related accidents in their daily lives, and what to do when they come across landmines or UXO, taking into consideration the local customs and values. Here is a report from Ms. Harumi Kawagoe, an AAR staff from Khartoum Office in Sudan.

Original teaching materials reflecting a variety of cultural aspects

People in Sudan have been tormented by the countless landmines and UXO planted and dropped during the civil war lasting for more than 20 years. Since 2006,AAR has visited many villages, providing information sessions with our original teaching materials such as posters, flip charts, and songs.  As of January 31, 2014, we have reached 88,483 people in Sudan and raised awareness of the risks and threat of landmines and UXOs. For the local people to have better understanding of these sessions, we have created our own teaching materials that are compatible with the customs and cultures in the area. Before we begin to deliver these sessions, we conduct interviews with local people and children in the target area to find out their awareness level of their own culture as well as the risks of landmines and UXOs, and the results are reflected in our material development.
"We were anxious to find out what would become of Yasir," said the children who listened to the prototype of our radio drama. They enjoyed the content. (Kassala, February 2013)