Two years after a 9.0-earthquake struck Japan, triggering a devastating tsunami and subsequent radiation crisis, International Medical Corps is continuing to work with local partners to reach families with critical services in Fukushima Prefecture.
“Due to complications from the nuclear plant accident, many residents have been forced to evacuate their homes in Fukushima and are still living either in temporary housing sites or in rented apartments. Countless survivors are still struggling to rebuild their lives after the disaster without knowing when or if they can return home,” says Yumi Terahata, International Medical Corps Country Representative in Japan. “International Medical Corps is committed to working with local partners to address the long-term needs of the Japanese people.”
An International Medical Corps emergency response team was on the ground within 48 hours of the disaster in March 2011, assessing needs and coordinating with the Japanese government. While Japan has significant capacity to manage emergencies, the magnitude of this disaster – coupled with the threat of nuclear exposure – was large enough to warrant international assistance. Since the disaster, International Medical Corps has supported local partners in delivering critical humanitarian services including delivering hot meals, medicines, telecommunications equipment and mental health and psychosocial services and training. Today, the organization continues to build on its collaboration with local Japanese agencies to address ongoing humanitarian needs and support disaster-affected communities in becoming more resilient.
One major area of need identified by local organizations was the lack of places where displaced residents from affected areas could go to alleviate feelings of anxiety and loneliness. International Medical Corps is supporting partners Japan Volunteer Center, Shapla Neer and The People to run community spaces throughout Fukushima Prefecture where evacuees can meet other evacuees; receive psychological support and critical information about available resources; and take part in recreational workshops and activities.
International Medical Corps is also prioritizing support for Fukushima’s evacuee-children. The organization is working with The Association for Aid and Relief to install playground equipment for the Gangoya Temporary Housing Complex which is home to 264 families. Through partner IVY, International Medical Corps is also supporting the first daycare center for children of evacuee families from Fukushima. The majority of IVY caretakers are themselves evacuee-mothers.
In addition, International Medical Corps is funding the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation to establish and maintain a collaboration space for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Fukushima to facilitate information dissemination, networking, and collaboration among local community-based organizations, nonprofits, and international NGOs to assist Fukushima survivors and displaced families.
Looking ahead, International Medical Corps will continue to partner locally to support disaster preparedness and response programs in Japan.