Apr 1, 2011

Caritas Japan continues its relief effort in Sendai

At this moment, according to the government announcement, there are more than seventeen one hundred and seventy thousand (170,000) people evacuated and staying in numbers of shelters, mostly public facilities and halls. More than eleven thousand dead has been confirmed and over sixteen thousand people are missing. Local government will built temporary houses for victims but the construction may not begin for next one or two month in most of the affected area. According to the present regulation of government, these temporary housings will be provided only for 2 years to the victims.

Caritas Japan and Catholic Church, especially Sendai diocese, will try to assist victims while they are in shelters for next 2 to 6 month and after they are provided temporary housings. While they are in shelters, they may need medical attention which has been provided mainly by local governments and Red Cross.  National government is trying to re-establish transportation network so that food, water and medicine will reach shelters. As for NGOs such as us, what we would concentrate is to visit these people in shelters to listen to their stories and try to make stay in shelters comfortable as much as possible. There are not so much privacy in shelters so one of the Catholic NGOs are providing partition or room divider made out of cardboard. There are number of people who lost their family members. There are people suffering from survivor guilt. Many can not understand why they survived and why their loved ones not and began to feel guilty. They need psychological attention. There are the grief care institute run by Jesuit Sophia University which was established after 2009 train accident in Osaka. We may ask their assistance to support victims.

Bishops conference have just decided on 24 March that entire Catholic Church in Japan should work together to support relief effort of Sendai diocese and they appointed me to be a coordinator of this program.

After the victims are provided temporary housings, since quite high number of victims are aged or elderly people in these rural area of Japan, we may have to organize volunteers to make regular visit of houses to make sure they will be provided necessary assistance both material, physical and mental. We do not have our own medical staff who are specialist for psychological care in Caritas Japan, but we may consult with Catholic Doctors Association for help since these effort will be done under the initiatives of Bishops Conference.

We are already in contact with local governments to provide volunteers to clear the affected area. After tsunami, there are so much of rubble or wreckage and much more manpower is needed.  Caritas Japan is cooperating with Sendai diocese to manage the Sendai

Diocese Support Center (SDSC) to coordinate relief operation of the Church. We have sent 2 staff members of Caritas Japan to the SDSC. According to their reports, 2 lines of mobile phone of the center never stop ringing from people all over Japan inquiring possibilities to join the operation as volunteers. Tokyo office of Caritas Japan had to ask support staff from other section of the Bishops Conference to handle so many numbers of donations. We had same experience in 1995 when we made a donation campaign for Rwanda refugees crisis but I think response from general public and Catholic community in Japan is much more enthusiastic than 1995.

For the area, economy would be badly damaged. Especially in the affected area in Sendai diocese, majority of people are farmers and fishermen. Farmers lost their farming lands which had been soaked in sea water. Fishermen lost their ships in Tsunami and their famous aquafarming system had been completely destroyed. It would be very hard for them to re-build their houses and, at the same time, re-establish their profession. Then the crisis of the nuclear power plant are affecting farmers of Fukushima whose farms escaped Tsunami but affected by radiation. I really have no idea how long it may take to restore their normal life.

1 comment:

  1. Seeing the scarcity of bottled water esp. in some areas of Japan I have compiled a few "Survival tips: Out of bottled water? Drinking water contaminated? Here is what to do …"