When the March 11 disaster struck, people with severe disabilities whose lives depend on respirators or suctioning machines were placed in a frightening position. A mother of a 9-year-old boy who requires a respirator recalled her experience: “When the earthquake struck, the bed and respirator were both shaking, and it seemed that the tube was going to come out. Luckily, we had two helpers there at the time who were able to hold the tube down for us. If the earthquake had struck just a little earlier or later, they wouldn’t have been there, and that would have been dangerous. When the aftershock struck on April 7 and we were without power for three days, we used the car battery and borrowed a neighbor’s generator to try to keep the respirator going.”
Such families live in constant fear that another earthquake or aftershock will place their loved ones in danger, but household generators are expensive—particularly for families that already are dealing with the medical costs of caring for family members with disabilities. To try to sooth the ongoing fears of these families, the Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) has been working to distribute generators in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. To date, they have delivered 113 gas or propane-based generators, providing the fuel and instructions on how to use the machines as well. They have had support from several German NGOs on this project. The distribution process also offered an opportunity to create connections between families in the area who are caregivers for severely disabled children.