Two years after an earthquake and tsunami brought devastation to northeastern Japan, children continue to find support from government, communities and the Japan Committee for UNICEF.
Japan (March 13, 2013) — It has been two years since UNICEF entrusted the Japan Committee for UNICEF with performing the vital role of extending support to children in Japan for the first time in some 50 years, following the earthquake and tsunami that affected hundreds of thousands of people in northeast Japan.
Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011, the national committee made a concerted effort to help affected children and their families by mobilizing its well-established network of partners, including the private sector, schools, religious groups and volunteers. UNICEF workers in emergency relief locations around the world also traveled to Japan to help.
At the outset of the response, workers distributed drinking water, clothing and other supplies to affected people and made evacuation centers a stress-free environment for children. A few days later, operations expanded to include mother and child healthcare services, support for reopening schools and other activities.
The response showed how knowledge gained by UNICEF over decades is effective in diverse countries. Following the earthquake, this expertise would prove crucial in one activity after another.
According to Chairperson of the Japan Committee for UNICEF Ryoko Akamatsu, “As we were providing emergency relief, I realized that we had fallen behind in assistance for the care and education of nursery school children, in comparison with support for school-age children. This was also true for after-school care centers for children.
Our staff visited kindergartens and preschool facilities to provide assistance that matched the needs of each location. We distributed blankets, eating utensils, toys and furniture, cleaned up dirty buildings and performed other tasks. This led to support for rebuilding facilities for children, which was the highlight of our second year of earthquake recovery support.”
Today, with the oversight of teachers and community members, children are enjoying their time at these facilities — kindergartens, nursery schools and after-school care centers. The bright, welcoming buildings were built from local materials and by local carpenters. The sight of children playing at these facilities gives the affected people and those who extended support even more motivation to continue moving forward.
Full-scale reconstruction activities are underway, with countless initiatives from national and local governments. Even at the ‘front line’ of relief, community associations and residents have long been taking the lead in providing assistance.
The Japan Committee for UNICEF remains committed to continuing activities with a focus on three areas: psychosocial support, child protection support and child-friendly reconstruction plans. “We will use this approach to continue extending assistance in a manner that supports the activities of the UNICEF associations of each prefecture of Japan and of local governments and individuals,” said Akamatsu.
For more information on emergency relief in Japan, visit: http://www.unicef.or.jp/kinkyu/japan/en/2011.htm.