East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster
Japan Committee for UNICEF Emergency Relief and Reconstruction Support
On 13 March, just two days following the earthquake, the Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU) received the complete support of UNICEF Headquarters in launching the first assistance campaign for Japan in nearly 50 years. In a concerted effort, a team of JCU-UNICEF staff engaged in emergency relief and reconstruction efforts in order to support the lives and the psychological and psychical development of children in the affected areas that had lost nearly everything in this unprecedented natural disaster. This report is a review of the past six months since the disaster. The report provides information on the situation of affected children, the activities carried out to answer the needs of those children, the voices of staff and supporters that assisted these activities, and a six-month income and expenses report.
Six-Month Report -Digest Version
Emergency Phase Activities
- After the disaster it was tremendously difficult to procure and transport all of the necessary supplies to the affected areas. Considerable cooperation was received by local co-ops in the affected areas in delivering drinking water, over 200,000 pairs of children’s underwear, and hygienic products such as diapers and sanitary wipes that were donated by supporting corporations.
- JCU provided a wide range of health and nutrition-related assistance, including: supporting the restoration of health systems (vaccinations, infant health checkups, etc.) that were no longer functioning due to the devastating hit that administrative services suffered in the disaster; providing vehicles for traveling clinics conducted by nurses; surveying the health and nutrition conditions at shelters; distributing dietary supplements and vitamin-enriched rice; and establishing a free telephone hotline that offered nutrition consultations concerning infants.
- JCU also worked to establish Child-Friendly Spaces with the objective of extending psychosocial assistance to children.
- Working towards reopening schools, JCU individually packaged and delivered school supplies for approximately 26,000 primary and junior high school students in the disaster areas. JCU also launched the Back-to-School campaign, under which it provided computers for teachers and other school equipment required for the restart of school operations.
- JCU also started the Back-to-Kindergarten and Preschool Project, working towards reopening kindergartens and preschools in the affected areas, where assistance efforts had been behind compared to primary and junior high schools. Today, JCU is assisting the construction of facilities for 13 kindergartens and preschools that were totally or partially destroyed in the disaster while incorporating the opinions of the children, parents and other related persons.
- JCU also started the UNICEF Children’s Mini Library project, delivering picture books and children’s books that were donated from across Japan to the affected areas. As of the end of August, more than approximately 270,000 children’s books had been delivered to shelters, primary and junior high schools, kindergartens and preschools, children centers, child-rearing assistance groups and other organizations, as well as individuals in the affected areas.
Health and Nutritional Support
- JCU provided height and weight measurement scales, examination tables, vaccination storage refrigerators and other medical supplies so that maternal and child health services could be restarted as soon as possible. Thanks to these efforts, on 19 April the first infant health checkups since the disaster restarted in Rikuzentakata City in Iwate Prefecture. After that and until June, full-fledged health checkups and vaccinations were restarted in various affected areas. These services were offered to 27,000 people in 18 cities and towns in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures.
- In Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture, JCU supported the repair of school lunch facilities that had been rendered useless due to damage from the earthquake. These efforts allowed for school lunch facilities to recommence operations in time for the new school semester starting 22 August.
Psychosocial Care and Protecting Children
- With the cooperation of the Japan Association for Play Therapy, JCU held play therapy seminars in the affected areas, teaching therapy methods that allow children to express their fears and feelings through play, helping to reduce psychological stress levels. More than some 1,000 nursery staff, teachers, parents and other related individuals participated in these seminars.
- UNICEF Children’s Bus Field Trips were carried out in Iwate Prefecture, while in Fukushima Prefecture JCU implemented the “Let’s Play! The Outdoors Playtime Project”. Both of these projects were conducted with the objective of providing children with an opportunity to play freely in a safe environment. A total of approximately 33,000 children participated in these projects from both prefectures.
- In Fukushima Prefecture, JCU has partnered up with the Fukushima Society for Certified Clinical Psychologists and is providing psychosocial care for children that are not old enough to go to school, as well as to their parents, through such activities as traveling consultations provided by experts.
- JCU started the “Tegami Project” on 15 July to deliver letters and messages received by JCU from children around the world to children in the affected areas, and then to deliver the replies of children in the affected areas to the original senders of the letters. JCU continues to implement the Tegami Project so that, through interaction with children in other countries, children in the affected areas can expand their dreams and potential.
- JCU promotes child-friendly urban development in post-disaster reconstruction activities. As such, JCU provides assistance so that the views of children are incorporated in public assemblies and meetings held for the purpose of considering reconstruction.