From the Field

6 months later, Japan battles long-term tsunami effects

World Vision staff member distributes school supplies to students. ©2011 Itoh Kei | World Vision

As local economies still struggle in Japan’s coastal towns affected by the March earthquake and tsunami, World Vision focuses on assisting children and revitalizing the crippled fishing industry.

Six months after a massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami ravaged Japan’s northeastern coast, impressive recovery has taken place, but survivors are struggling with emotional scars, and local economies are floundering.

“No country would have been able to protect itself against an earthquake and tsunami the scale of which we experienced,” said Mariko Kinai, World Vision’s emergency response director in Japan.

“Six months later, the survivors are still living with uncertainty and hardship. This isn’t something you can recover from quickly.”

Immediate response exceptional, but rebuilding takes time

World Vision began responding in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, and has reached more than 147,000 people with emergency relief supplies and long-term recovery assistance.

“By international disaster response standards, the recovery that has taken place in Japan has been exceptional,” Kinai said. “The progress here shows that preparedness and strong disaster response capacity makes a big difference.

“However, while rebuilding is taking place, survivors battle every day with the physical and psychological effects of the disasters. Besides losing loved ones and having homes washed away, livelihoods have been lost, and rebuilding local economies will be a long-term process.”

Fishing industry still struggling

In the coastal town of Kesennuma, the fishing industry is operating at 20 percent of its normal capacity, and thousands in the local workforce are still without jobs. World Vision is helping replace equipment that was lost in the tsunami, and will also be launching a campaign in local high schools to renew interest in the fishing industry.

“Economic recovery is key,” Kinai said. “By assisting local fishermen with new equipment and supplies, World Vision is able to help jumpstart the industry and promote long-term re-growth. This has a direct benefit to children whose parents are currently out of work.”

The toll on children

World Vision has focused its efforts on Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, two of the hardest-hit areas. We have set up seven Child-Friendly Spaces to give children a chance to recover from the emotional and psychological toll of the disaster. They participate in art therapy and structured activities designed to help them return to a normal, stable environment.

“There have been literally hundreds of aftershocks that make children continuously anxious. After each one, they relive the nightmare of March 11,” Kinai said. As recently as August 18, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake sent tremors through the region.

The second phase of recovery

World Vision has moved into the second phase of its response, which will reach about 100,000 people from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012. Our teams will focus on:

  • Community-building within the temporary shelter settlements
  • Installing boreholes, emergency water storage, and solar panels for emergency power in future disasters
  • Helping children recover through Child-Friendly Spaces, and providing school supplies and temporary classrooms
  • Helping revitalize the local fishing industry
  • Providing relief supplies and child-focused support to families who evacuated from Fukushima prefecture

Two ways you can help

Pray for continuing recovery in Japan. Pray especially for a full recovery for the fishing industry, which is the sole livelihood for countless families, and for psychological and emotional healing for children.

Make a one-time gift to our disaster response fund. Your donation will help us respond quickly and effectively to sudden-onset humanitarian emergencies around the world, like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last March.

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