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Three years on from the earthquake and tsunami which battered the Eastern part of Japan in March 2011, the Red Cross continues to support many of the thousands of survivors still in temporary housing as they try to return to normal life. Support is also being provided to thousands of people forced from their homes by the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant which was triggered by the tsunami.
“There is still a continuous need for us to stand by the affected populations and the problems that evacuees in Fukushima face are very particular, said Tadateru Konoe, President of the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) and of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies(IFRC). “It’s difficult to see any future in some of the areas which have had to be abandoned due to the radiation,” he said, speaking on a visit to the restricted area around the nuclear plant.
Since the Fukushima power plant accident, JRCS has focused both on providing support, such as health and psychosocial visits by nurses to those displaced by the Fukushima meltdown and on increasing preparedness for nuclear accidents. JRCS also established a nuclear disaster resource centre at its headquarters last October, aimed at collecting information and experiences in a digital archive system and creating an operational manual for use in the event of future disasters.
Across the area worst affected by the earthquake and tsunami, JRCS has played a key role in reconstructing hospitals, clinics, kindergartens and other facilities. On the whole, rebuilding damaged and destroyed infrastructure has been moving much faster than the building of new permanent homes, although a number of those housing projects which the Red Cross has supported are now completed and the mainly elderly residents have moved in.
Japanese Red Cross staff and volunteers have also been providing a variety of welfare services focusing on the needs of an aging displaced population, including organising activities through which residents of prefabricated housing can socialize.
While most of the large-scale earthquake and tsunami recovery programmes will soon end, local Red Cross chapters in Iwate, Fukushima and Miyagi will continue locally-led recovery projects and provide a range of services, including psychosocial support to survivors.
The Japanese Red Cross has received over USD 600 million from sister societies, including New Zealand Red Cross, around the world. By the end of December 2013, more than 74.7% of these funds had been spent or committed on specific recovery programmes that benefit survivors of the disaster.