World Vision today is preparing staff members in Japan to travel to areas affected by yesterday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. Staff will assess the needs in affected areas and prepare supplies and programs to serve those left homeless by the twin disasters.
The aid group plans to establish one or more Child-Friendly Spaces--sites for children affected by disasters to resume normal childhood activities and experience structure and security that are often lost following emergency situations.
"Children in Japan are keenly feeling the fear and insecurity that often set in following natural disasters like yesterday’s earthquake and tsunami," said World Vision relief manager Kenjiro Ban. "We’re planning to see how deep the needs are in the affected areas and begin to bring relief to families. We've seen in Haiti, Chile, and other recent disasters that Child-Friendly Spaces can be a key way to address the unique needs of children who survived but are deeply affected by the experience."
World Vision's assessment team, departing from Tokyo, includes veteran aid worker Ban, who was part of World Vision's quake response in Haiti this past year. One concern is how quickly the team will be able to access hard-hit areas, given debris and transportation blockages that may hinder efficient travel.
Reports vary in their estimations of those dead and missing as a result of the disaster, but many fear the death toll to exceed 1,000. World Vision expects that recovery will take time, and that children's needs in particular will require close attention by aid workers. World Vision has worked in Japan for more than two decades and responded to the massive Kobe earthquake in 1995 that claimed 5,500 lives.
Meanwhile, authorities in Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and other nations remain on alert, but have called off evacuations and encouraged communities to return home after initial waves proved less severe than expected. In many of these countries, where the poverty and remoteness of coastal communities makes them especially vulnerable, World Vision had pre-positioned relief supplies and trained staff ready to address immediate needs had a sizable disaster materialized.
In Papua New Guinea, World Vision's relief manager Gerard Van Gramberg reported: "All is quiet and people who had evacuated are gradually returning to their homes. The tsunami warning is still on but the general feeling is that the waves have not been as big as anticipated. World Vision will continue to monitor the situation in other parts of Papua New Guinea as well as in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu."
In Indonesia, World Vision staff were on high alert and continue to monitor the coastal areas and the safety of staff and families in communities World Vision serves. One eyewitness stated, "The residents in several coastal areas like Jayapura and North Sulawaesi evacuated themselves voluntarily but then went back to their houses as the water level stayed normal."
According to World Vision relief experts, cash donations are the best way to help survivors, as it allows help to be mobilized most efficiently. The public can donate or learn more at worldvision.org or by calling 1.888.56.CHILD or text "4JAPAN" to 20222.