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Japan one year on, Red Cross switches focus to communities in limbo

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Mark South 020 7877 7042 /
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One year on from the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami which killed around 20,000 people, shattered coastal towns, and triggered the ongoing nuclear crisis, the Red Cross is helping to rebuild communities torn apart by the triple disaster.

In the immediate aftermath of the March 11th tragedy, the Japanese Red Cross played a vital role, deploying hundreds of medical teams and thousands of volunteers to help in the aid effort.

Now the focus of the Japanese Red Cross efforts, supported by more than £14m from the UK donated to the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal, is turning to supporting communities displaced by the disaster.  

“The emergency needs following these three disasters coming in such quick succession were huge,” said Barry Armstrong, disaster response manager for the British Red Cross.

“Now the situation has stabilised, but there are still hundreds of thousands of people, many of them elderly, living in temporary accommodation and waiting for reconstruction which could take up to five years.

“People whose homes were destroyed by the tsunami, or who have been forced to leave the exclusion zone around the nuclear power plant, simply do not know when they will have a permanent home again. The focus now is to support these communities and help them cope with their new situation.”    

The Japanese government has built more than 50,000 temporary homes, but while people may have roofs over their heads, looking after residents’ welfare in these sometimes remote and often cramped buildings is a pressing concern.  

To make the buildings habitable when residents moved in, the Japanese Red Cross provided thousands of sets of appliances including cooking equipment such as kettles and rice cookers.

And as well as continuing to support temporary hospitals and health centres, and helping repair hospitals damaged by the tsunami, the Red Cross is also working to bring a sense of community to people who have been forced to relocate.

“Younger people have moved away from the prefecture and found work elsewhere so it tends to be the elderly people who have stayed behind,“ explained Shoichi Kishinami, chief of operations for the Fukushima chapter of the Japanese Red Cross.

“Our aim is to rebuild ties between people. Get people out from their tiny rooms and bring people together and create a real sense of community again.”

They are doing this through holding regular health workshops including basic health checks, and first aid and basic care education at the clusters of temporary homes where people have had to move to, often taking them away from their old friends and extended families.

In Fukushima City, the Red Cross is also supporting the Smile Park an indoor playground for children who have been unable to play outside due to fears over radiation since the nearby nuclear power plant exploded.

“Now the emergency phase is over, a major task is supporting people as they come to terms with their new reality,” added Armstrong.

“Five years is a long time to live in a temporary situation so we have to make sure people have the practical and emotional support to enable them to cope until reconstruction and recovery is complete.” 


Case studies, images and video available.

For spokespeople and interviews please contact:

Mark South, British Red Cross, London – 020 7877 7042

Francis Markus, IFRC, Japan - +81 90-6534-7098

Patrick Fuller, IFRC, Japan - +81 90-6534-7128

Sayaka Matsumoto, Japanese Red Cross, Japan - + 81 90 78202173

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The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.