The Great East Japan Earthquake: Two years on from the earthquake disaster- an activity report of the progress to date

Building on its extensive experience in providing international emergency relief, the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) has continued with relief efforts to support affected communities in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Through cooperation with the government and disabled people’s organizations, AAR Japan has utilised the mobility afforded to NGOs to continue its focused efforts for those in areas that are difficult to reach. Together with expressing our heart-felt gratitude to the individuals, corporations and organisations that collaborated with AAR Japan, this report entails our endeavours for the last two years (March 2011 – February 2013).

*Owing to the diverse range of activities that are undertaken, a portion of the report has been omitted. Please view the following for individual activity reports. 

Reconstruction Relief: For a new tomorrow

Reconstruction of facilities for the elderly and persons with disabilities: 67 locations

Using a trailer house, the ‘Earth village café’ from the Yamamoto Town Workshop in Miyagi Prefecture opened in December 2012. Many customers visit from the surrounding neighbourhoods. (6 December 2012)

Many facilities for persons with disabilities suffered as a result of the earthquake disaster. These facilities offered skills training and employment to those who have difficulty working in private companies; however, as a result of the earthquake disaster, these facilities were lost. By conducting activities such as repairing these facilities for persons with disabilities or supplying the necessary equipment for work, AAR Japan relief efforts are assisting persons with disabilities in reclaiming a space in which they can conduct activities.

Market stalls for products made at welfare facilities: 19 events

Several companies in Tokyo also agreed to participate in the market stalls. (9 March 2012)
While the production of sweets and handcrafts has resumed at welfare facilities in the disaster areas, there has been a sharp decrease in sales. This is partly because previous customers have also suffered from the disaster. By holding markets stalls for welfare facilities from the three North-Western prefectures at local companies, as well as supporting joint market stalls at shopping centres in Morioka City and Sendai City, AAR Japan is supporting the market expansion of products of 23 welfare facilities. AAR Japan is also contributing to the development of new products.

Holding events that promote regional exchange: 157 events

In July 2012, the “Nishi-Aizu Exciting Kids School” opened so that the children of Fukushima Prefecture can relieve stress and counter the lack of exercise that has resulted from the evacuee lifestyle, by playing outside in the natural surroundings of Nishi-Aizu City(22 July 2012) 
To ensure the disaster victims live with both a healthy body and mind, AAR Japan supports a number of events that are held under the “Building Healthy Communities Project”. In several areas, temporary housing sites regularly hold events that combine rehabilitation, concerts, and some focused activities. Additionally, AAR Japan also supports agricultural activities such as small scale farming so that people can participate in fieldwork and use their bodies, while interacting with their neighbors.

The provision and set-up of playground equipment in Fukushima Prefecture: 26 locations

  • The provision of water to preschools: 11,440 litres to 9 locations.
A park was born within the grounds of a temporary housing site. (Shinchi Town, Fukushima Prefecture, 27 February 2012) 
AAR Japan has assisted in creating play areas in which children can relieve stress and counter the lack of exercise that has developed from living in cramped temporary housing. This includes setting up large scale play equipment within the grounds of the temporary housing sites and supplying indoor play toys to places such as assembly halls and child care facilities. Furthermore, heeding the concerns of mothers worried about radiation in the drinking water, bottled mineral water has also been provided to preschools in Fukushima Prefecture.

Distribution of radiation measurement devices: 11 devices

A radiation measurement device used at the Karishikida Daiichi Temporary Housing Support Centre in Soma City (centre-back). Results are produced within 15 minutes of placing chopped ingredients into the measurement device.
To measure the dosage of radiation in daily food or unprotected locally produced crops, food radiation measurement devices have been set up in the community centres and temporary support centres around Soma City in Fukushima Prefecture.

Delivering thoughts from across the country

  • Handmade tote-bags: 10,543 bags

Harumi KAWAGOE from the Tokyo Headquarter, reads a message and delivers chocolate at the Nakazuma temporary housing development in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture (right).  “It has lifted my spirits”, they happily responded. (19 December 2012).
Stemming from suggestions by disaster victims that a tote bag would be excellent to use when going to school or to arrange relief supplies that were provided, a large number of handmade bags with messages attached were donated after a nation-wide call out for their creation. (Bags collected in April 2011, October 2011 and September 2012).

  • Chocolates: 4,843 boxes

Several people also contributed to the “Heart-Warming Chocolate Delivery Campaign” where messages of support from the public were attached to AAR Japan charity chocolates (with cooperation from the Rokkatei Confectionary Co., Ltd.) and delivered to the disaster areas.  Some recipients shed tears when they received the message “We have not forgotten you”.  (Messages collected: Winter 2011-2012 and Winter 2012-2013).

  • Flower seedlings: 1,603 pots

In the spring of 2012, AAR Japan commenced the “Flowers and Heart-Warming Campaign”, which aimed to send flowers to brighten up disaster areas. AAR Japan purchased pot plants from garden shops and facilities to deliver individually to persons with disabilities in the disaster area, such as the temporary housing sites, each with a message attached. 

Improving the welfare system for persons with disabilities in the disaster areas

  • Staff dispatched: 5 staff members dispatched for 63 cumulative months.

AAR Japan’s Kazuo OHARA prepares to support the welfare office at the Morioka Regional Centre. (25 July 2012).
In cooperation with government and other organisations, AAR Japan addressed the maintenance of the welfare system for persons with disabilities in the disaster areas. In Iwate Prefecture, 4 staff members have been temporarily transferred to the regional centres of the “Iwate Disability and Welfare Recovery and Relief Centre”. Creating manuals for emergency evacuation and gaining an understanding of the  conditions of disaster victims with disabilities are examples of the work that is being conducted. In Miyagi Prefecture, AAR Japan has dispatched one staff member to the “Miyagi Prefecture Linkage Cultivation Group”. Focusing on Minami-Sanriku Town, this project has continued with repairs of areas in which children with disabilities can play after school and in the summer holidays. 

Recovery Support: Reclaiming daily life

Provision of living essentials to victims in Fukushima Prefecture: 22,559 households

With the cooperation from the community and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, daily items such as fans, kotatsu (Japanese heaters) and detergents were delivered. (5 August 2011)
Living essentials such as kitchenware and cupboards were distributed to all households in the 13 municipalities of Fukushima Prefecture that were moving into temporary and leased housing.

Vehicle provision for the community and for facilities for the elderly and persons with disabilities: 45 vehicles

Welfare vehicles were provided to the “Japan Disability Forum Fukushima Disaster Area Disability Support Centre”. (15 January 2013)
Both welfare vehicles and standard vehicles were provided to facilities and communities throughout the North-Eastern region to be used by welfare facilities in dropping people off and to transport those assisting in the recovery effort.

Distribution of domestic-use generators

  • Domestic-use generators: 258 generators
  • Manual sputum aspirators: 419 pumps

Domestic-use generators were delivered to the Izumi Station for Visiting Nurses to the Elderly (Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture). (19 October 2012)
Power failures and blackouts are life-threatening problems for persons with disabilities that are living at home whilst using artificial respirators or sputum aspirators. During the earthquake, several regions experienced power failures and for many people, lives were saved by using car batteries or by rushing to a hospital that was equipped with generators. For these people to continue to receive care at home, AAR Japan distributed domestic-use generators and manual sputum aspirators to households of persons with disabilities and to visiting nurse centres.

Provision of container houses

Container houses that were set up in the “Rikuzentakata Future Shopping Arcade” are currently still being used as stores. (2 November 2011)
Demountable container houses that could be used as residences or shops were supplied.

Emergency Response: Life-saving emergency relief 

Distribution of relief supplies: Delivered to a total of 1,606 locations and 180,000 people

Gasoline, gas oil and kerosene were primarily delivered to facilities for persons with disabilities in the disaster areas that experienced severe fuel shortages. (17 March 2011)

AAR Japan activities have placed emphasis on the elderly and persons with disabilities; this stems from our international experience that indicates these groups are often overlooked during disasters.  Adult diapers and instant care foods were well received at welfare facilities.

  • Food supply deliveries: 25,000 meals to 73 locations

Visiting clinics and healthcare activities

  • Recipients of the visiting clinic: 817 patients
  • Recipients of visiting nurses: 387 patients

“I was so happy to have people come to my house so many times and be concerned about my condition. Having people recognise my existence gives me strength.” (30 May 2011)

On Oshika Island in Miyagi Prefecture, AAR Japan conducted activities based around local doctor Toshiaki YASUDA and his medical team. This team focused on carefully visiting evacuation centres and homes of evacuees conducting medical treatment, examinations for chronic illness, prevention of infectious diseases and offering psychological support.

Plans for future activities

In the future, AAR Japan will continue to provide relief to the elderly and persons with disabilities of the disaster region and those whose lives have been affected by the nuclear disaster.

  • AAR Japan will continue to carry out support to those living with in the aftermath of the nuclear accident. We will continue to provide the opportunity for children to partake in outdoor activities as they have been restricted since the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. To maintain a healthy mind and soul and move their bodies every day, we will continue the provision and set-up of play equipment to facilities for children with disabilities, temporary housing sites and the Nishi-Aizu Exciting Kids School. Furthermore, by making rounds to the temporary housing sites in Soma City and neighbouring municipalities, AAR Japan will continue to listen to the voices of the disaster victims and conduct relief activities suited to the residents.

  • AAR Japan will continue to promote the participation of persons with disabilities in community and economic activities. Through the creation of jobs at welfare work places and the production of products with high market value, AAR Japan will continue to provide support to enable more persons with disabilities to live independent lives. Additionally, through cooperation with government and social welfare councils, AAR Japan will continue to support maintaining the foundation for recovery for disability and welfare across the three prefectures of the North-East.

  • Through the “Building Healthy Communities Project” that is currently underway, AAR Japan will support consultations with livelihood counselors in addition to massages and health exercises provided by physiotherapists and occupational therapists. The project will also include the continuation of agricultural field work and handcrafts which the residents are actively involved in, revitalizing the interaction and exchange between the residents of the temporary housing sites while preventing the isolation of the elderly.

  • AAR Japan will carry out support for disaster prevention and reduction. In cooperation with communities and related organisations, this will be based on its experience of emergency recovery relief to date.

  • AAR Japan will continue to conduct activities that encourage public involvement and continued concern for the recovery of the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster. This will be achieved through the Hand-made Tote bag Campaign, the Heart-warming Campaign and the continuation of other activities that link the disaster area and the supporters.

The AAR Japan’s North-Eastern recovery relief activities are supported by generous donations from the public. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.