Haiti: Ending seven years of relief efforts for those affected and persons with disabilities

As of January 2017, AAR Japan has concluded all of its relief activities in Haiti.
In January 2010, Haiti was devastated by a catastrophic magnitude 7 earthquake. In response, AAR dispatched an emergency assistance team. AAR established an office in the capital Port-au-Prince, delivering food supplies and engaging in various projects, such as the rebuilding of child care facilities and facilities for persons with disabilities (PWDs), promotional activities for hygiene, and inclusive education. 
In April 2016, seven years after the quake, the office in Port-au-Price was closed, but our work with inclusive education continued in collaboration with local organizations. Then in October 2016, Hurricane Mathew caused a tremendous amount of damage to the country, prompting AAR Japan to take action and dispatch its emergency assistance team once again to support those who were affected. As of January 2017, all of the organization’s work with promoting inclusive education and supporting victims of Hurricane Mathew were completed and thus our activities in Haiti had come to an end. The following is a report of AAR’s activities and its results which were made possible by your support.

1. Assistance for those affected by the catastrophic earthquake (January-June, 2010) 

On January 12th, 2010 (local time), a strong magnitude 7 earthquake struck the Republic of Haiti.
Even before the earthquake, Haiti had long been considered the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. As it turned out, the impact was devastating as a result of various combining factors; the earthquake having directly struck the highly populated capital, the sheer scale of the earthquake itself, and a fragile social structure due to the country’s volatile political situation. In light of this situation, AAR sent an emergency assistance team to the ground on January 25th, consisting of 4 staff members from our Tokyo Office, which distributed emergency relief packages, waterproof sheets and other aid items to 13,400 households overall (approx. 67,000 persons) by April 2010.
“I have been waiting for water and food”. Go IGARASHI (right), AAR, hands food and daily necessities package to a woman affected by the disaster (February 4th, 2010)


No Help From Anywhere – Afghan Returnees in Deplorable Conditions

Today over 2 million Afghan refugees live in Pakistan. Since last July, the government of Pakistan has toughened its policy to repatriate Afghan refugees. As a result, 630,000 Afghan refugees returned to Afghanistan last year. Additional 500,000 refugees are estimated to join them in March following the winter pause. To prepare for emergency relief, AAR Japan conducted a preliminary assessment to examine the living conditions of these Afghan returnees who are stranded in in Nangarhar Province, which makes an entry point along the eastern border. The province currently hosts over 140,000 Afghan returnees who are taking temporary refuge. Through the assessment we discovered these “returnees” have no home to return to. This report details the returnees’ situations observed by the assessment team in the field.

Nowhere to Go—Returnees Shivering in Tents

From February 20th to March 4th AAR’s assessment team interviewed 3,815 households, in 10 districts in Nangarhar province most populated by the. Half of those interviewed lived under tents near the river or on a piece of land owned by someone else because they have nowhere else to stay. The Pakistani government is forcefully kicking Afghan refugees but the Afghan government has no designated camps for resettling the returnees. Nonetheless, the Afghan government does not allow NGOs to provide shelters these returnees. Under these circumstances, all returnees have to bear individual responsibilities to find a place to live. This is nearly impossible simply because they are poor and their hometown is under political instability.

One woman who lives in a tent shared her story with tears in her eyes. “My husband had already died, so I returned to Afghanistan with my children. I had to sell some of the belongings to pay for food and a place to put up a tent, but it cannot withstand the rain and wind. Some children died from the cold. We need a proper house. Children cannot go to school but they work on the street or in a brick factory. These kinds of jobs are too hard for children. Many NGOs are saying that they will help us, but it’s the only handful who receive any help. We came back to our country with hope. But there is no hope here.”

Children can’t go to school because of financial burdens, coupled with the language barrier. There are multiple languages spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan, some of which are shared across the border.  However, most of the children cannot speak languages spoken in Afghanistan because they were born and raised in Pakistan. Education will be a major issue for these returnee children in the coming years.
Children living in a tent. A girl in the middle holds up a registration document issued by the government of Afghanistan (March 2nd, 2017)


The Great East Japan Earthquake: Our Fadeless Memories and Lost Home

Connecting People

Nearly 6 years after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, approximately 13 million still live in post-disaster temporary housing facilities (Reconstruction Agency, January 2017). In 2016, AAR Japan (Association for Aid and Relief) held 64 events in its continuous effort to encourage disaster victims to socialize, maintain their health and relieve stress. 1,201 people participated in activities that involved massage and counseling, craft workshop, lunch events and others.

In Iwate, AAR is continuing its effort in Otsuchi, a town which was severely damaged as the tsunami had washed away the entire town. Six years after the disaster, more than half its population are forced to live in temporary housing. While public housing facilities are being completed in some areas, progress has been slow in the devastated areas. These areas have only finished developing plans for banking work and making foundations on higher ground, allowing no evacuees from these areas to leave the temporary houses and return home for the next 2 years.

Today, many still struggle with their memories of their tsunami experience. A woman in her 80s said, "I was on the second floor of my house when I saw my elderly neighbor screaming for help while the tsunami took her. She looked at me, but I could not do anything to save her. While her daughters have decided to return to their family's renovated house, she has chosen to wait for the public housing to be completed in 2 years, never to be in a place that can remind her of the experience of the disaster. Another woman told us, "I was able to move from temporary housing to public housing, but living alone can feel very isolating and I still have sleepless nights because of my experience with the tsunami."
Temporary housing resident and her handmade princess dolls at a craft workshop, Minami-Soma Koike Harahata Daini temporary housing (February 2nd, 2017)