Japan: A Sendai Report by a Supporter―Witnessing the Plight with Her Own Eyes (4)

One of the AAR JAPAN longtime supporters, Ms. Toshi Morikawa, visited Miyagi prefecture in this early August.  She describes the calamity after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the strength of the local people. 

The Plight of Fishermen and Farmers in Northern Japan
A ship turned over by tsunami
 (April 10, 2011, Oshika Peninsula, Miyagi)

Northern Japan is largely an agrarian, farming and fishing country, left behind in Japan’s economic advancement. Its long beautiful coastline is dotted with some 400 fishing villages, now nearly all destroyed. A large part of these fishermen lost their homes, boats, fishing gear, store houses and often their canning and other marine industries, and their fishing ports. They cannot restart fish and shellfish cultivation, since the sea basin is still covered with debris. The Miyagi governor wants to establish special fishing economic zones, but the fishermen are angry. They say big business would fish aggressively, depleting the resources. They say their way of fishing has been, for generations, to tenderly care for their precious resources.

Farmers are also in a plight, as their soil has been soaked in salt water, and there is fear of radioactive contamination. The government says it intends to make farming possible in around three years, by desalting and removing the slime from the soil. Farmers are not so optimistic. They are farming in some areas, and raising cattle, not knowing if their produce could be sold. Areas near the nuclear reactors will reportedly remain off limits for decades to come. The situation changes daily.

Should they move their residence up hill?  Can they live away from their farm and their boats and their harbor?  Is their land safe? The government is yet to set many needed policies. Many questions remain.

A Hope to a New Way of Life
The issues are daunting. Yet, people's glowing faces at the concert, their tears of joy and sadness; people's tender care for each other; their resilience and innovation; and the matching support by NGOs, such as AAR, gives me the hope that this could perhaps lead to a new light, a new way of life through unknown ways; a change impossible during normal times.

This report gives only a minute description of the calamities experienced in northeastern Japan and what is being done to meet the challenges. It does not even touch major issues related to the nuclear disaster.

AAR JAPAN is Always with Most Vulnerable People

AAR JAPAN operated food assistance to
 Kenyans suffered from prolonged draught
 (August 14, 2011, Kenya)
AAR's September newsletter arrived.  It has a report on its activities to aid refugees from Somalia. AAR has an office in Nairobi. They sent 4 staff members to Nairobi on August 5. They began immediately to see what aid they can provide. They talked to local residents, local NGOs and the local government. Now they are positioned in two cities along the border, to help assist some 1500 refugees arriving from Somalia daily. They are again giving special attention to seniors, the disabled, nomads who came fleeing due to the draught, and people left out of any aid.

On Northern Japan it says people still in shelters have a hard life, so little exercise. The shelters are hot and damp. Their chances to do any washing is far between.  AAR is providing them, case by case to meet the need, with vacuum cleaners, electric fans, drying machines for beddings, dehumidifiers, house cleaning tools, insect repellents. They are exchanging some old beddings with new cotton summer blankets, and providing refrigerators. where there are none.  You can imagine how they could cope with no refrigerator during this record hot summer!  AAR is helping house cleaning,  too.  They have worked with 23 evacuation shelters so far.

AAR JAPAN provided humidifiers to local people
(October 5, 2011, Ishinomaki-City, Miyagi)

Moving to temporary housing is a step forward but, it means they need to obtain their daily meals on their own, and for those with no income it is not at all easy.  Such housing is often up on the hill, a safe place, not an easy place to live for people with no means of transportation.  Compensation talks are moving slowly.

I do admire the AAR staff, knowing many have studied abroad, and, interestingly enough, have worked at top class financial institutions in the world.
(the End)