Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief (146th report)
Event: One-year Report on Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief

One-year Report on Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief

A year has now passed since the 11 March disaster of 2011. This one-year report provides an overview of the activities undertaken by the Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU) in collaboration with local residents and aid organizations made possible by the generous donations of people around the world.

UNICEF’s emergency assistance policy emphasizes that it is the children that are the most vulnerable during natural disasters. JCU’s reconstruction effort in Tohoku is still underway, and we will continue to provide emergency relief assistance to children of the Tohoku region in light of UNICEF’s policy of child-focused assistance.

On 6 March an event was held at the UNICEF House in Tokyo where presentations were made to report on relief assistance provided over the past year. The event included reports by JCU staff who have been involved in assistance activities, presentations by onsite staff that have been engaged in the relief effort since the beginning stages, and even a screening of video taken by freelance journalist Akira Ikegami of JCU’s onsite efforts in the affected areas.

A reading was also held of stories about children born on the day of the disaster and their families. Yae, who provided the song for JCU assistance movie message, also played a short concert. The event served as a venue for people to pay consideration to the future of children in the region.

Holding of the One-year Report Event on Earthquake & Tsunami Relief

[TOKYO, JAPAN, 7 March 2012]

Nearly a year has passed since the unprecedented disaster that shook Japan in March 2011. On Tuesday, 6 March, the Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU) held an event where it reported on the emergency relief and ensuing reconstruction activities that it has undertaken in the past one year in order to assist affected children and their families.

******* Report Excerpts *******

“Activity report: Assistance made possible through generous cooperation”
Yutaka Kikugawa, Emergency Assistance Headquarters Program Coordinator

The Japan Committee for UNICEF could not have implemented such an extensive assistance campaign on its own. It was only through the assistance and cooperation of various individuals on multiple levels, and through generous donations from countless kind hearts, that we were able to continue to provide this aid.

Directly after the earthquake we delivered toys to the affected areas as a form of relief supplies. Delivering these toys, however, was no easy task. When we first arrived in the disaster areas on 15 March, there was no water, food or even gasoline. People had absolutely no idea why we chose to bring toys. Nevertheless, when I explained that it was precisely due to such circumstances that we had to provide children with toys to create an environment where they could be at ease, the Board of Education in Miyagi Prefecture agreed to distribute the toys. Later, however, the toys were deemed to fall outside of the scope of relief supplies by the assistance headquarters in the prefecture, and were sent to the back of the storage area. That is when the prefectural co-ops, which have provided assistance to UNICEF for many years, mobilized their trucks to offer logistical assistance. Thanks to a decision by the Board of Education and the mobility of the co-ops, we were able to deliver the toys to shelters throughout the prefecture.

JCU has also been able to assist schools in quickly reopening their doors. This was possible due to the strong efforts of those active on the front line, including individual schools and the boards of education, the cooperation of local volunteer organizations, and numerous corporations that provided stationery and other school supplies. Initially, there were also various obstacles related to land acquisition and land management that hindered the reconstruction of kindergartens and preschools. There were even times when sound consideration must be paid to the true effectiveness of aid. JCU has heard from individuals who voiced a genuine need for certain preschools. Such insight is invaluable for JCU and assists us in making informed decisions. Several reconstruction projects for preschools and kindergartens of high need continue today, and there are plans to complete a number of permanent and temporary facilities between April to the summer.


As an example of psychosocial and other psychological assistance for children, clinical psychologists and nursery staff have formed teams and are extending assistance to mothers and children at shelters. These efforts would not have been possible without the cooperation of such experts. JCU has learned that an important aspect of psychosocial assistance is encouraging constant affection between adults and children. Moving forward JCU will continue to work together with specialists that teach adults how to be there for children and provide them with the necessary advice when needed.

UNICEF and JCU strive to create a society where the rights of children are protected; however, in order to protect the rights of children there must be people to carry out the duty to protect. It is our responsibility as adults to ensure a future for our children 20 and 30 years down the road. We ask for your continued support as JCU continues to devote its best efforts to this cause.

        © Japan Committee for UNICEF/2011/K.Goto

“Future activities”
Mariko Mizuno, Tohoku Representative, JCU Emergency Assistance Headquarters

On the child protection front, a new undertaking is underway—assistance for single-father households. Fathers that have been left to raise their children on their own are unable to express the difficulties that they face, feel embarrassed when undertaking household chores and child-rearing, and sometimes feel a general sense of misery in their life. Assistance for single-father households is carried out with the cooperation of various partners, and includes networking fathers and efforts to develop aid management that extends care to such single fathers. These opportunities allow fathers to share their feelings and information with other fathers, providing them with a sense of relief and comfort, which in turn positively impacts their children. This assistance is thus important for children as well.

Moving forward more focus is going to be placed on child protection and psychosocial assistance. This means that the role of JCU’s regional associations will become more important. I also hope to work with universities and other groups in fostering a robust younger generation.

An image of the disaster area directly after the earthquake

“An Onsite Perspective”
Tomoharu Kondo, Iwate Field Manager, JCU Emergency Assistance Headquarters
Elena Yamagishi, Miyagi Office, JCU Emergency Assistance Headquarters
Eiji Shiraishi, Director, Saitama Association for UNICEF

“I entered Miyagi Prefecture on the 28th or 29th of March. When we first arrived it literally looked like a battle zone. Then we went to an elementary school and that was where the school superintendent and principal told me, “We have to keep on driving forward.” After hearing those words I knew that I had to stay focused. I was overcome with the urge to help. And I have been active everyday since.”
“I started working onsite in mid-April. We were in the middle of surveying the needs and laying the groundwork for assistance. I remember running between the rubble to get to government offices, shelters and preschools. During that time I met and talked with a lot of people.”

-UNICEF activities overseas and assistance for Eastern Japan

“I have worked as a UNICEF education specialist in Pakistan, Indonesia, Maldives, Uganda and other countries, and in most of those places I was working amidst a natural disaster or conflict. In providing emergency aid it is essential to collaborate with local government. It is of course important to deliver relief supplies and create special spaces for children, but one must also consider how to root these efforts into the community so that they are sustained. We received various different reactions depending on where we went. Some people even scolded us, saying, “What took you so long?” Nevertheless, everyone, including the local government itself, is a victim of the disaster, has lost family and is working hard to overcome the adverse circumstances. That is why we cannot give up. We must be patient at times and wait until people are ready to talk. In Japan I learned the importance of being patient and working together with local government in carrying out assistance. This is an important lesson that applies to providing assistance anywhere in the world.”

-Assistance for evacuees from Fukushima

“On 19 March, 1,200 residents from Futaba Town, Fukushima Prefecture evacuated their homes and came to a shelter set up at the Saitama Super Arena. We launched a food service for the evacuees, but full-fledged activities did not begin until the Futaba Town residents transferred to the former Kisai High School building. At the high school, elderly evacuees and children were forced to stay in the same area, so I proposed that we create a Child Friendly Space and a UNICEF Mini Children’s Library. We were able to use a corner of the gym for this space, creating a space that was more enjoyable for the children. We continue to operate these spaces even today.”

-Considering the future of the children

“We can’t let this disaster get in the way of things. It shouldn’t make children give up on their own futures. Children that wanted to go to school should not have to go to work instead. In the reconstruction process we have to create an environment where the capabilities of children are in demand. Whether in Japan or overseas, it is vital that we keep the children close to our hearts.”
“Children’s emotions change from time to time. Sometimes they don’t feel well, sometimes they are dependent on their mother and sometimes they want to play with their teachers. However, there are some children unable to express these feelings. There are still many children who see the expressions on the faces of adults and feel that they have to suck it up and bear their pain. These children hope that they will once again be able to play, study and spend free time with other children as children should. I hope to show everyone how hard these children are working to overcome their circumstances.”
“It was a painful decision for the residents of Futaba Town to come to Saitama. The Mayor of Futaba Town once said, “Our children have a future ahead of them, and I will do anything to get them away from the effects of radiation. I don’t care what people say. My number-one priority is saving the children. The residents of Futaba made a group decision to move for the sake of the children.” Futaba residents continue to eat pre-prepared lunch boxes for all three daily meals. I intend to assist everyone that is working so hard to survive, and when everyone is again independent, I want to be right there with them smiling.”
Singer Yae presents a beautiful song to the audience.   Maya Masai performs a heartfelt reading.

During the second half of the event, Ms. Maya Masai presented readings of two stories from “Happy Birthday 3.11” and singer Yae performed “Like the nameless flower” and two other songs in a mini concert for the attendees.
Click here to view video of the event »

©All photo credits: c Japan Committee for UNICEF