The Kumamoto Earthquake, One Year Later: Applying Lessons from the Disaster in Providing Aid

It has been nearly a year since the Kumamoto Earthquakes. During the earthquakes, the town of Mashiki and the village of Nishihara experienced two magnitude 7 earthquakes, and in the village of Minamiaso, the Aso-bridge collapsed due to a large-scale landslide. As of November 30th of last year, 4,165 additional earthquakes, which could be felt, had been recorded. The number of casualties, including 150 earthquake-related deaths, rose to 205 (Kumamoto Prefecture Crisis Management Disaster Prevention Division Announcement, March 3rd, report). Moreover, at its peak there were over 180,000 evacuees and 855 evacuation centers. Since the disaster, AAR Japan has been distributing meals and basic necessities and up to now has been providing aid to a social welfare facilities for people with disabilities and to those in temporary residences.

Rebuilding a Vital Place in the Village

During this earthquake, there were supply and staff shortages at the evacuation centers that were established to accommodate those who require special care, such as those with disabilities and the elderly. In addition, temporary residences had not been designed to be wheelchair accessible. It made us recognize again how easy it is for people with disabilities and the elderly to be put into difficult situations in times of disaster. Because of this, AAR Japan has focused on providing aid to people with disabilities, by supporting local organizations which work with people with disabilities and who are leading recovery efforts in  the region.

In Nishihara Village, 60% of the houses were completely or partially destroyed. Nishihara Tanpopo (Dandelion) House, a NPO near the village office, is the only social welfare facilities of its kind where people with disabilities go to process crops and prepare and sell bentos (lunch box) and snacks. During the day, it is a cafeteria filled with locals, and is a place where those facing economic hardships can enjoy a meal with others whilst lending a hand to the center.  It has become a central entity, a vital place in the village.
Even after the earthquake, the house has become an evacuation center for those disabled persons and staff who frequented, in addition to acting as a point from which supplies and meals could be distributed to nearby regions.
Tanpopo House’s cafeteria has a rich menu, including ramen and curry. (Jun.24th,2016)


Sudan: April 4th, International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance, Overcoming injuries related to landmines

Even after the large scale civil war between south and north Sudan, conflicts continue especially in areas such as Western Darfur. Many landmines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) are still left in many areas, resulting in accidents every year. In 2015 alone, 33 people were killed and 71 were injured in various parts of the country. Although the government started taking measures against landmine activity in earnest, it had to suspend its assistance of landmine victims in 2012 due to budgetary constraints and a need to focus on the clearance of mines/UXOs.

AAR Japan has been working on mine risk education to protect people from the dangers of mines and UXOs. Since July of last year, it has conducted support activities to assist victims in Kassala in east Sudan, which is one of the most severely affected regions of mines and UXOs. Support is largely divided into three groups; (1) Providing artificial legs, tricycles, and rehabilitation. (2) Assistance of mine victims to restore their previous lives in terms of their earnings and relationship with the community. (3) Drawing up national strategies to assist mine victims.

At present, there are no reliable statistics as to how many victims there are in Sudan. When starting our assistance, we collected information on 396 people by frequently visiting the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Disabled People Organization, and the Mine Action Center. Then, based on a variety of criterion, such as an aptitude to receive rehabilitation and past history of assistance, we selected 35 people with a particular focus on those affected by landmine activity.

Pleasant and Proud Life with Artificial Legs, Carefree Outing on a Tricycle

Artificial legs and tricycles were provided through the National Authority of Prosthetics and Orthotics in Kassala and physical therapists were employed and dispatched by AAR, as there were no qualified persons at the Center. Khalid Ahmed Osman (age 41, left in the picture), a former truck driver, is one of the five receivers of artificial legs. When driving his truck two years ago, it passed over an anti-vehicle landmine. His life was saved but he had to have his left leg amputated. Since then he had to walk on crutches, and even when he went to the market, he couldn’t work properly. As a result, he was regarded as an impediment and was heckled by other people, which was very difficult for him to bear. When I first met him, he was worried what other people would think of him, and looked timid and nervous as if someone was going to slander him. But when I met him three months later, he was accustomed to using his new artificial leg and was walking steadily. What impressed me most was that he had restored his confidence and he had a cheerful and proud expression on his face.
Khalid Ahmed Osman (left) is getting a mold made for his artificial leg. When I met him three months later, his facial expression was quite different (Kassala State, Sudan; following pictures were all taken at Kassala, December 13th, 2016)