Japan: Mobile Clinics and Health Services Conclude as Local Medical Institutions Restored

Six Months of Assisting Survivors in Their Homes

Mizuho SEKII, AAR JAPAN staff,
 visits Ms. SUGANO in her home,  
checking her blood pressure.
“Periodic visits allow us to become
close to the evacuees. We’re always
welcomed with smiles.” (Oshika 
 Peninsula, Ishinomaki City,
Miyagi Prefecture)
Since March 19th, the Association for Aid and Relief JAPAN (AAR JAPAN) has been offering medical services to approximately 640 residents of Makinohama, Takenohama, Kitsunezakihama, Sudachi, Fukkiura, Kozumihama, and Kobuchihama on the Oshika Peninsula, where a large number of disaster survivors were taking shelter in their own homes. 

AAR JAPAN’s medical team was built around three core members: two nurses, Tomoko NAGAI and Mizuho SEKII, and a local medical practitioner, Dr. Toshiaki YASUDA. The medical team ran mobile clinics and offered health-related services, including check-ups on sufferers of chronic illnesses, prevention of infectious diseases, and psychological care. By September 18th, we had offered home-visit treatments to a total of 817 people.

At the government’s request, between August 10th and September 15th the medical team conducted a survey to assess the health of survivors who had moved from evacuation centers into temporary housing. While conducting the survey, in addition to inquiring about the evacuees’ health the team also arranged nursing care services for those in need. In order to avoid overlapping target areas, throughout the operation the medical team carefully communicated with the local government and other organizations offering medical services in the area.

As local medical facilities resumed operations, these services were concluded on September 30th. Mizuho SEKII reports.

Helping Disaster Survivors Stay Healthy while Local Medical Facilities Recover

Dr. YASUDA, center, carefully 
examines Matsuyo HIRATSUKA, right.
At left is nurse Moeko NAGAI. 
(Oshika Peninsula, Ishinomaki City,    
Miyagi Prefecture).
Through the mobile clinic and our health-related services, I was able to observe changes in the lives of disaster survivors on the Oshika Peninsula. When we began the operation it was so cold, and many evacuees were getting sick from living in cramped spaces. Many lacked any means of transport to get to medical institutions, or could not receive medical services because the clinics were still unable to operate. Dr. YASUDA from AAR JAPAN’s medical team examined a great number of patients, and contributed to restoring their peace of mind.

Most transportation and medical services were restored by June or July, allowing many evacuees to travel to their usual hospitals and clinics. For those who lived in remote areas with less access to transportation, however, proper medical services were still not fully available. In such areas, our medical team made periodic visits and carefully tended to the sick and elderly.

By September, temporary health clinics had been established even in remote areas, and the doctors who had served in local medical facilities were able to resume operations, allowing AAR JAPAN’s medical team to conclude its services. We were pleased to be able to play a pivotal role in filling the medical gaps during the absence of regular service.

Encouraged by Smiles 
People on the Oshika Peninsula always 
look forward to our visits. Fukiko ABE,
right, shares her experiences from 
the earthquake with nurse Moeko NAGAI. 
(Oshika Peninsula, Ishinomaki City, 
Miyagi Prefecture)

Listening to disaster survivors was an important part of the medical team’s activities. Through listening, we were able to observe small changes in their psychological health as we worked. 

In the early days, many evacuees shared devastating experiences from the disaster with tears in their eyes, struggling to cope with the event. In our more recent visits, they seem much more relaxed, with their comments becoming more optimistic. Now we often hear them say, “There is nothing else I can do but look ahead.” Watching these people regain their strength after going through so much pain, I felt the depth of the courage of the people of the Oshika Peninsula. Despite both their mental and physical strain, every time we visited they were always appreciative of our services, offering us warm welcomes that truly touched us all.

Although AAR JAPAN’s mobile clinics and health-related services have achieved their objective, the evacuees continue to suffer from an uncertain future and the stress caused by having to live in new environments such as temporary housing. AAR JAPAN is committed to our efforts to support disaster survivors in recovering both their mental and physical health, and will continue to distribute relief items in preparation for the upcoming winter, offer rehabilitation services and psychological care, and arrange community interaction events such as the Building Healthy Communities Project. We would like to express our sincere appreciation for everything that your generous contributions have made possible, and ask for your continued support.

Mizuho SEKII, AAR JAPAN Medical team (nurse)
Worked as a nurse in a hospital for six years after graduating medical school. Engaged in AAR JAPAN’s medical support efforts in the disaster zone from April to September, 2011. (Born in Ibaraki Prefecture)