June 13, 2011

It has now been three months since the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku region, so a number of NGOs have published summaries of their activities to date. We have summarized the reports from two of our fund recipients here.

The Association for Aid and Relief (AAR) reported that it’s distribution of relief supplies have reached more than 600 sites and approximately 65,000 people. The list of supplies they’ve distributed include everything from 13,600 liters of diesel oil, to 14 tons of water, 2.5 tons of rice, 2 tons of tangerines and bananas, 25,000 articles of clothing, 50,000 towels, 10,000 toothbrushes, 70 bicycles, 4 wheelchairs, 500 cans of antibacterial spray, 100 pairs of reading glasses, and so on. They are providing basic necessities for the roughly 35,000 households that are moving into temporary homes in Fukushima Prefecture, including items for the kitchen and bath, vacuum cleaners, cupboards, and kotatsu (low tables with built-in heaters underneath, which are found in most Japanese homes). AAR is also working with the local chambers of commerce to ensure that as many of the supplies as possible are locally produced in order to encourage the economic recovery. They also built 10 container houses to provide short-term temporary housing for evacuees.

AAR has provided medical and mental health experts for in-home evacuees, particularly on the Oshika Peninsula, and were able to treat 481 patients between April 9 and May 31. Through June 4, it also provided a minibus to help people in that area get around on the heavily damaged roadways.

AAR’s volunteers have served approximately 16,650 meals in 48 locations during the 2-month period from March 31 to May 31. They have begun helping with repairs to facilities for the elderly and the disabled. In April–May, since water was still in short supply, they provided a temporary “onsen” (spa) in six locations that allowed 500–600 people a day to bathe and relax.

They are also working with a local NGO to provide psycho-social care for children in the Soma City area in response to a request from the local government. Teams of experts are providing care at local schools and the organizations are carrying out various events for the children to relieve their stress as well.

Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) also reported on its activities to date. They have sent about 160 tons of supplies (40 truckloads) of food, bedding, hygienic products, heaters, and other items, reaching almost 20,000 people. In the early stage of relief efforts, they provided satellite phones and cell phone charging stations to help people communicate, provided medical services to those that had not been reached by others, served coffee to about 1,000 people, and provided a temporary bath in Ofunato for those at an evacuation center.

In early April, PWJ began providing assistance to roughly 11,000 households in Iwate Prefecture who are moving into temporary housing. To date, they have helped more than 3,750 families, giving them shampoo, soap, towels, wash basins, pots and pans, clocks, first-aid kits, bedding, dishes and utensils, umbrellas, and other items.

PWJ has also been very concerned with the impact of the disaster on the children, many of whom lost family and friends and have been enduring the stress of living for extended periods in evacuation centers. PWJ has been offering various activities—arts, sports, movies, and play—to let them relax and express themselves freely. They sent volunteers and medical professionals (pediatricians and counselors) to work with the children and their caregivers, delivered toys, showed movies provided by the famous Studio Ghibli, held an Art & Sports Caravan, and have provided gardening kits and reading materials to children at evacuation centers.

Starting in late April, PWJ began focusing on economic recovery as well, working in close cooperation with the local chambers of commerce, fishing cooperatives, and others. They provided office equipment and Internet connection to the Rikuzentakata and Ofunato chambers of commerce, provided trucks for local merchants to start “mobile stores,” and distributed gift cards and free bus service to get people back to the stores. They are working with the fishing industry to provide them with ropes and equipment for their boats, prepare for the June bonito season, and find ways to get the fishermen back on their feet as quickly as possible.

PWJ’s current plan is to continue assisting those moving into temporary housing, which should go on until about October; continue assisting the children in the region through at least March of next year, at which point they will reassess the needs; and continue assisting the local economic recovery through at least next March as well.