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May 04, 2016

Series 4: Support for the residents of Kumamoto with learnings from Tohoku

Japan has the most advanced disaster preparation strategies in the world.  Anti-seismic building regulations are stringent, every schoolchild knows what to do in an earthquake and advance warning systems are in place for tsunami and volcanic eruptions.  Yet the series of quakes in Kyushu last month [April] still claimed 49 lives, injured 1,350 and caused the evacuation of 196,000 people.
 
In Japan, government bureaucrats have traditionally dictated top-down disaster relief and reconstruction policies, but after the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated Tohoku five years ago, this role began to open up to include charities, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.  The Qatar Friendship Fund (QFF), with its $100 million donation from the emirate of Qatar, was one of many overseas organisations to dispense aid in Japan, and the lessons learned in Tohoku are now being put into practice in Kyushu.
 
One lesson that some fear is being overlooked in Kumamoto prefecture, where two major earthquakes struck on April 14 and 16, is a failure to address the specific needs of female evacuees and to engage them in decision-making.  Akiko Domoto, a former governor of Chiba prefecture and head of the Japan Women’s Network for Disaster Risk Reduction (JWNDRR) argues that "women shouldn't just be passive participants, but involved in the management of evacuation shelters".
 
Some 90,000 people were still living in evacuation centres in Kumamoto two weeks after the first quake.  According to Kyodo, on top of the 49 deaths from the earthquakes, 14 people are so far thought to have died “from complications stemming from the stress and fatigue of living as evacuees”.
 
As in Tohoku, most of the casualties in Kumamoto prefecture were elderly people living in old wooden houses, built before modern safety regulations came into force.  The evacuees are now living in cold, uncomfortable shelters with little food and poor hygiene.  The evidence from Tohoku shows that elderly people living in these conditions are extremely vulnerable.  In Fukushima prefecture, more people have died from evacuation-related stress than were killed by the earthquake and tsunami.
 
Most evacuation centres are school buildings, meaning that 150,000 children in Kumamoto prefecture have been unable to attend school.  The Kumamoto International Foundation, where Japanese disaster information is being translated into 10 different languages, is also housing foreign residents.
 
Supplies have been running low, due to damage to storage buildings and a shortage of distribution personnel, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.  The local government eventually [27 April] distributed tablet computers to evacuation centres to enable them to order supplies directly from an online database.
 
The twin earthquakes created unexpectedly high levels of demand at evacuation centres, which have been overwhelmed.  An outbreak of norovirus was confirmed by the prime minister and one woman in her 50s died from deep-vein thrombosis after sleeping in her car for several nights.  Doctors suspect as many as 97 more cases of the condition, known as “economy-class syndrome”, which is caused by blood clots created by cramped living conditions.
 
Thrombosis is a particular risk for elderly or overweight people, pregnant women and those with diabetes, high blood pressure or varicose veins.  The Morioka hospital in Iwate prefecture, which treated evacuees after the Tohoku disaster using funding from the QFF, recommends these groups should wear compression socks, as should anyone with swollen legs or feet, especially those living in cars.  Evacuees are encouraged to take exercise, drink plenty of water and go to the toilet regularly.  However, women in particular have reduced their water intake in order to avoid using crowded, unhygienic bathrooms with no running water.
 
Women have also suffered from a shortage of sanitary products, and mothers, who in Japan take most of the responsibility for child-rearing, have struggled to get supplies for their babies, such as nappies and formula milk.  During relief operations in Tohoku, the JWNDRR found that the needs of women had not been factored into advance planning.  In makeshift hierarchies established in evacuation centres, women silently endured discrimination after being deliberately excluded from decision-making by “elderly men with outdated values”, said Ms Domoto.
 
She fears the same pattern is repeating itself in Kumamoto.  “If evacuation shelters are run entirely on decisions made by men, we don’t know if women are in trouble”, she said.  The JWNDRR has set up female leadership training centres in Tohoku with funding from the QFF, in order to address this problem.
 
Local media reports confirm that the needs of those other than able-bodied men have indeed been neglected in Kumamoto.  Special evacuation facilities for the elderly and disabled were meant to house 1,700 people in the prefecture, but a failure to publicise their existence meant that, two weeks after the first quake, only 129 evacuees had been admitted.
 
The legacy of Japan’s repeated experience of natural disasters is that it is better prepared than almost any other nation on earth.  The Kyushu bullet train was up and running within days.  Yet structural challenges in Japanese society, such as the ageing population and a lack of organisation diversity, can impede the country’s responses.  By listening to NGOs and charities, the government can give a voice to the vulnerable.
 
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May 03, 2016

Series 3: Child Education

  The devastated coastline of Tohoku seems like an unlikely place for a state-of-the-art science lab and cutting-edge educational facilities showcasing the latest in experiential learning.  Yet the cities of Sendai and Iwaki on Japan’s north east coast have completed these landmark projects with the help of the Qatar Friendship Fund (QFF), a charity which finances development projects in Tohoku that would otherwise have struggled to find funding.

 
Reconstruction in Tohoku moves at a frustratingly slow pace, hampered by bureaucracy, a labor shortage and differing visions for the rebuilt communities.  Private sector and charitable foundations can be a lifeline for local communities seeking funding for innovative projects, such as the Qatar Science Campus at Tohoku University and the Student City and Finance Park facilities in Sendai and Iwaki.
 
Schools in the coastal communities of Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate prefectures were already suffering from depopulation before the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident struck five years ago.  This trend sharply intensified after the disaster, which damaged more than 6,500 schools and killed more than 500 schoolchildren.  Nearly half a million people were evacuated.  More than 1,500 children lost one or both parents, and many thousands more lost siblings, friends, classmates and teachers. 
 
Today, schools in Tohoku face not only the challenge of depopulation, but also a generation of traumatized children.  Educators in the region have realized that these children are ill-served by traditional Japanese teaching methods, which offer little opportunity for self-expression or practical experimentation. 
 
The new Student City and Finance Park facilities in Sendai and Iwaki, built with funding from QFF and administered by the Junior Achievement organization and local education authorities, teach children entrepreneurial and practical skills outside the classroom.  According to a local government report, “Japanese education in general puts more value on how much knowledge is memorized”, while the QFF project “provides Tohoku elementary and middle-school students with [an] experience-based learning program”.  The aim, says the report, is to help the children understand the purpose of education and how it will relate to their lives as adults.  The program aims to impart values that overturn mainstream Japanese educational theory: “independent thinking, decision-making skills and the bravery to be different from others”.
 
“Over 11,410 elementary and junior high-school students [now] learn about the economy and social structures as part of their educational curriculum, and it gives them a chance to think of their future career options”, said Tetsuya Bessho, a QFF ambassador.
 
Student City is a work experience program in which local and national businesses set up mini offices and shops in a mocked-up city, and set fifth- and eighth-grade pupils  to work serving “customers” acted by parents and volunteers.   
 
A representative of Honeys, a local clothing company, said she was initially unsure how to handle the children.  “When I first heard about it, I questioned whether fifth grade students would be able to do [it].  I remember a growing sense of concern.”  However, “as the activity progressed, the children began thinking for themselves.  It is a wonderful thing to see them as they gain confidence in such a short time, solve problems and work hard for the store”, she said.
 
An employee of Lawson, the convenience store chain, experienced similar changes.  The children started off with “small voices” and closed facial expressions but responded with smiles when they pleased a customer.  “Such experiential learning activities foster self-affirmation in students and lead to self-discovery”, he said. 
 
One parent commented that she was “moved to see the serious faces of the children as they did their jobs”, which is “something you can’t see in their daily lives.  The face of every child was brimming with a sense of achievement, and seeing that I was moved to tears.”
 
In the Finance Park project, which is also designed to resemble a real city, children are assigned a theoretical family and income, and asked to budget for housing, tax, healthcare, insurance, food, clothes and savings.  They must visit company booths to assess the different policies on offer and calculate how much disposable income they have left each month after expenses.  Students are taught about debt, credit cards and loans, investments, savings, interest rates and the stock market
 
The aim is to make children aware of their future role in society and the economy, prepare them for the practical challenges of adulthood, foster responsibility and independence and incentivize them to aim for ambitious careers.  Organizers hope to raise a generation of resourceful and entrepreneurial young people who will contribute to the regeneration of the local community.
 
Companies such as Daiwa Securities and Mitsubishi Home praised the scheme for introducing children to some of the complexities of adult decision-making, such as choosing investments or housing.  A representative of KDDI, the telecoms company, said, “Junior high school students enjoy their lives without thinking about household spending, so it is very important for them to experience the activities in Finance Park.  They should understand what percentage of the household budget goes on phone and internet bills.”
 
Appropriately, one student said she had learned that “money is important, and I can’t beg my parents to buy things all the time”.  Another said the experience had changed his understanding of money.  “I always used up my pocket money every month.  But here I couldn’t make both ends meet, so I had to calculate again and again, [and eventually] I had to give up what I wanted to do.  But I was very pleased when I finished all my payments and I found out that calculating spending money was fun.”
 
“The education of young people is of the utmost importance”, says the government report, “since they are the ones who will shoulder the future restoration of the region.”
 
The Qatar Science Campus (QSC) at the University of Tohoku, in Sendai, has the same aim.  According to a report by the engineering faculty, the nurturing of “excellent engineers and researchers” has become “a big problem in Japan, especially in the Tohoku region”, due to depopulation and the need for job creation in the damaged areas.
 
“There are fewer and fewer young people, so a decrease in the numbers of people who work in manufacturing is expected”, said the report.  “After the Great East Japan Earthquake, new industries like renewable energy and energy-saving techniques are expected to replace old energy technology.”  The report also highlights the new “digital fabrication technology, such as 3D printers”.  In order to cultivate the engineers and researchers of the future, “it is necessary to get the children in the disaster area interested in science and manufacturing technology”.
 
Schools in the region lack scientific equipment and modern computing software, says the report, while teaching is still done in temporary buildings.  In 2014, using a grant from QFF, Tohoku University built its new solar-powered science campus specifically for the use of schoolchildren in Miyagi prefecture.  More than 19,000 pupils and teachers have benefitted so far.
 
Science workshops are held in the Qatar Friendship Fund Hall, with its panoramic 270-degree screen, 3D printers and precision-cutting machinery, encircled by walls of living plants.  Workshops have been held on LED lighting, jewel-polishing, making batteries out of fruit, examining micro-organisms living in our mouths and making speaking picture books using a voice synthesis system.
 
University lecturers have given talks for school teachers on robotics, educational psychology and understanding radiation.  Sony has sponsored a science program for girls, with female lecturers leading sessions on electron microscopes, making an AM radio, and wind power generation. 
 
The QSC also arranges tours of factories during the summer holidays, including a Coca-Cola bottling factory and the Japan Space Agency center in Kakuda, where the children studied a large-scale liquid fuel rocket engine and made their own rockets out of plastic bottles.  At JX Nikko Nisseki energy refinery students observed crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas being unloaded from tankers, while at the Kirin Brewery factory in Sendai they watched beer being made, canned and bottled. 
 
The reaction of children has been overwhelmingly positive, with 98% saying they would like to return.  “I hated science class, but I am more interested after this workshop”, said one.  “I could observe tiny details better here than the microscopes we use at our school and that was fun and interesting for me”, said another.
 

One teacher from Ekiraku Elementary School in Miyagi prefecture said that many of her students still live in temporary housing.  For children whose lives have been blighted by the disaster, the opportunity to escape the confines of their classrooms and explore the technologies of the future is a lifeline. 

 

Mar 11, 2016

Series 2: Fisheries

For thousands of years, Japan has been a nation of rice-farmers and fishermen. From whaling to pearl-diving to seaweed gathering, the Japanese have harvested the waters around their 30,000km coastline. 
 
When the Sanriku coast of Tohoku, widely regarded as one of the most fertile fishing grounds in the world, was devastated by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster of March 2011, rebuilding the local fishing industry became an urgent priority.  Overseas aid organizations, such as the Qatar Friendship Fund (QFF), worked with the public sector to revive and modernize local fisheries, support which continues to this day.
 
The challenge remains considerable - last year, only about half of fish processing facilities in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures were operating at 80 per cent of their pre-disaster levels or above.  The figure for Fukushima prefecture, whose produce still carries the stigma of radiation contamination, was only 25 per cent, says Japan’s Fisheries Agency.  Delays in reconstruction have been exacerbated by a labor shortage due to Japan’s low birthrate, lack of immigration and the exodus of young people to cities.
 
In order to halt the outward migration from rural areas, fishing communities have been scrambling to raise funds for infrastructure investment and job creation.  In 2012, using a donation from the emirate of Qatar, the Nippon Foundation, a Japanese charity, oversaw the construction of a state-of-the-art, multi-functional fish processing plant in the port of Onagawa, Miyagi prefecture.
 
Before the tsunami, Onagawa’s fishing industry employed 1,300 people, more than one in ten of the population.  The town was famous for recording the largest catch of Pacific saury in Japan every autumn.  However, the 2011 tsunami killed 800 out of a total population of 10,014, and 85 per cent of fisheries jobs were wiped out.  With storage facilities washed away, fishermen could not land their catch at Onagawa, and the number of fishing boats coming into port fell from 480 to just 88. 
 
Onagawa’s residents began to look for new lives elsewhere.  By the time the Maskar project began, a year after the disaster, more than 20 per cent of the surviving population had moved away, depleting the town’s tax resources.  By 2013, the town had lost nearly half of its population.
 
A rescue plan, funded by QFF, was agreed by the local government.  A 2 billion yen grant from Qatar was used to fund the construction in 2012 of the Maskar factory, which employs fish processing workers and provides refrigerators for fishermen to store their catch.
 
The building, which is built on stilts and incorporates high levels of seismic protection, also functions as an evacuation center in the event of future earthquakes and tsunami.  A secondary power supply is provided by roof-top solar panels.
 
For many living in Tohoku, reconstruction has been frustratingly slow.  The speed of the Maskar plant’s construction, as well as its technological innovation and modeling of public-private cooperation, has been a welcome exception.  It has also helped to spur the national government into action.
 
Shortly after the tsunami, the government said it intended to rebuild the destroyed quay walls, but no further actions were taken according to the Onagawa Fish Market Buyers Cooperative Association.  Shortly after Maskar opened, however, the government commenced construction work, and Onagawa was the first port in northeastern Japan to have its quay and breakwaters restored.  The government has now committed 8 billion yen to support the development of a large fish processing district around Maskar, known as Miyagasaki.
 
By 2012, the number of fishing boats landing their catch at Onagawa had increased to 236, from 88 in 2011, while the size of the saury catch grew from 7,803 tonnes in 2011 to 15,953 tonnes a year later.  According to Jiji Press, Onagawa Port showed the strongest recovery out of 32 fishing ports in Japan in 2012, with business growing by 161 per cent in terms of weight.  The number of vessels and the size of the volume and value of the total catch has continued to increase every year. 
 
In the early days after the disaster, local fishermen were given hope by the construction work at Maskar.  Many people who lost their businesses told the cooperative association that “seeing the building coming into shape day by day made them decide not to leave Onagawa”.
 
Takuma Endo, director of the Onagawa Tourism Association, expressed a similar view.  “I lost my house in the tsunami, and was laid off from my job.  I thought it would be better to leave to start a new life for my family.  However, my kids wanted to stay here and I was determined to play a role in revitalizing Onagawa.  Five years have passed and the fishery business has begun coming back, thanks to the support of QFF.”
 
About 150km north of Onagawa, in Toni, Iwate prefecture, another fishery group has taken an innovative approach to community revival. 
 
Toni consists of seven villages in Toni Bay, on the southern edge of Kamaishi City.  A fifth of the 2,106 residents worked in the fishing industry before the tsunami, harvesting and selling sea urchin, abalone, scallops and wakame seaweed.  The tsunami killed 32 inhabitants and destroyed more than a third of its housing, both its schools and 460 out of its 470 fishing boats.
 
At first, rebuilding a viable industry seemed impossible.  Fish processing companies had long suffered from low profits and were reluctant to invest in new infrastructure.  But one company, Kamaishi Hikari Foods, thought that it could charge higher prices if it invested in new freezing technology to improve the freshness of its seafood, thereby increasing profit margins.
 
Hikari Foods started building a new factory in Toni in August 2011, the first new marine product company in Iwate prefecture since the disaster.  It invested in a technology called proton freezing - a form of flash freezing which uses electromagnetic waves to produce tiny ice particles, thereby avoiding cell damage caused by the larger ice crystals created in normal freezing.  The preservation of cell structures results in food that retains its flavor better.
 
As a start-up, the company did not qualify for government subsidy, so Hikari Foods bid for and won a 94 million yen grant from QFF – a third of its total costs.  Shoichi Sato, the company’s chief executive, said that before the QFF grant, he had had to beg the bank for more money every month: “Just telling people you want money doesn’t work”, he said.  “I needed to make people understand what Hikari Foods would bring: the profits that would be created for the local area and people, as well as the motivation and sense of pride it would provide.”
 
At first, the factory struggled to attract employees, as the town was suffering from depopulation and many had found work in the local construction boom.  So it offered some incentives which are unusual in Japan – flexi-time and music.  
 
“Since many people were living under stress in temporary housing, we played music inside the factory to let employees relax and have some fun while working”, a spokesperson said.  As a result, the company is popular with school-leavers, and the average employee age is an unusually young 36.
 
Hikari Foods was soon able to sell its proton-frozen seafood to restaurants throughout Japan that valued its freshness and local derivation.  The company could charge a higher price than its competitors and has been able to pay fishermen in Toni Bay a better price for their catch. 
 
The company also cut out some of the cumbersome supply chain bureaucracy which weighs on typical Japanese companies.  Hikari Foods sells directly to restaurants and shops online and in person.  Face to face sales enable the company to collect feedback from customers and make improvements.  It has also associated its brand with the story of Toni’s revival and used this story to appeal to tourists and the media. 
 
In the first quarter of last year, the company received orders from 2,956 customers all over Japan, more than double its expected target.  By March last year, total sales had reached 174 million yen, exceeding the company’s own target.  Hikari Foods expects this figure to hit 300 million yen by 2017. 
 
“We hope that this project will be a model case for revitalizing depopulated fishing villages by reviving confidence”, said a spokesperson. 
 
Hikari Foods and Maskar are among many examples of innovative new approaches to an old and unfashionable trade.  Long associated with what is Japan is known as the ‘3 Ks’ – kitsui (difficult), kitanai (dirty) and kiken (dangerous), the fishing industry is now addressing its image problem.  Fisherman Japan is a new Tohoku industry group that aims to attract 1,000 young recruits by 2024 with the promise that fishing is “cool, successful and innovative”.
 

The people of Tohoku have shown that they have the entrepreneurial spirit to revive their broken communities in the face of demographic challenges.  Being forced to start from scratch has inspired companies to innovate and embrace new technologies.  Yet without start-up funding from overseas, it is unlikely that these green shoots would have flourished.  The revival of Tohoku has expanded the definition of community to include friends both nearby and far away.

 

Feb 11, 2016

Series 1: Health

Next month marks the fifth anniversary of the unprecedented disaster that wrecked thousands of lives, homes and communities in North Eastern Japan.  The debris left by the devastating earthquake and tsunami, much of it radioactive due to the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, may now have been largely cleared away, but the physical and emotional scars remain profound.  

Behind the scenes, work is quietly being done to help rebuild the lives of the survivors.  International charities and foreign government donations, such as the Qatar Friendship Fund, a $100 million aid program, are working alongside the government and local communities to provide direct support to the people of Tohoku.

The tsunami killed 18,554 people on 11 March 2011, and a further 3,401 have subsequently died as a result of the disaster, including suicides and elderly people who did not survive the evacuation.  The toll on survivors, mourning the deaths of loved ones and displaced from their ancestral communities, has been sometimes insurmountable.

The number of evacuees has today been reduced from 470,000 to 182,000.  Most of them are former residents of Fukushima prefecture, unable or unwilling to return to their homes for fear of radiation.  According to the Asahi Shimbun, about 60 per cent of this internally-displaced population is still living in temporary accommodation, often poor-quality prefabricated huts.

The impact on the health of local residents has been severe.  A 2013 United Nations report concluded that few, if any, deaths are expected to occur from exposure to radiation.  But a deep, widespread fear of radiation, compounded by the psychological effects of unemployment, isolation and despair, has been deeply damaging.

According to a report entitled ‘Post Disaster Mental Health in Japan’, published last year by the Health and Global Policy Institute, a leading Japanese think-tank, effects of the disaster include “fear, anxiety, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide”. The report goes on to say that “domestic abuse and alcohol problems worsen due to stress from prolonged temporary living situations and distressed economic status”.

Many aid organizations, domestic and international, work in Tohoku to help alleviate the suffering.  The Qatar Friendship Fund (QFF), which is also active in the fields of child education, fisheries and entrepreneurship, provided significant medical support to the hardest-hit communities, via three specific schemes.

One project involved rebuilding and improving sports facilities in Fukushima prefecture, using a donation of approximately 664 million yen.  Due to radiation contamination, children in the affected areas suffered from highly restricted lives, unable to play outside.  A child obesity survey carried out in December 2012 actually found that Fukushima had the worst results in Japan.  

This inspired local government officials to seek funding from QFF for sports facilities in Shirakawa, 80km from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.  By the end of 2014, a new sports center had been constructed, while a local gym and athletics track, both heavily damaged in the disaster, had been refurbished and modernized.  All have alternative functions in the event of another major disaster. The athletic field can be used as an emergency heliport, while the gym doubles as an evacuation shelter.

The new Annabi Sports Plaza, which is partially powered by solar panels, has a children’s playroom, an indoor futsal court and a gym.  Radiation contamination at the athletics track, located in the now renamed Qatar Sports Park, has been reduced to safe levels after extensive reconstruction, and local schools now use the stadium for training and competitive events.

According to the local government, the projects “could not have been made possible without the support of the Qatar Friendship Fund.  We are truly grateful for the generosity of the Qatari people who have helped a faraway city, Shirakawa, to create a better future for our children and improve the health of our citizens.”

The suffering of vulnerable and disabled children in the affected areas was also a priority for QFF, which donated approximately 435 million yen to the charity Association for Aid Relief Japan, (AARJ) and Morioka Municipal Hospital (MMH) in Iwate prefecture.

In addition to funding the purchase of specific medical equipment for children and adults with severe physical disabilities, AARJ installed indoor playground equipment for vulnerable children in 23 community centers in areas prone to high radiation.  At one residential care home in Fukushima City, which houses children who have suffered abuse, play equipment which had been damaged by the tsunami and contaminated with radiation was replaced with new swings, toys, a sandpit and a basketball court.  The play space is now also open to the local community to encourage social interaction.

“Children who had never been to the park can be seen laughing and playing and acting like real kids now”, said one teacher.  “I am so happy to see the smiles on their faces.”

Several libraries and community facilities for disabled children were also repaired and re-equipped by AARJ, including a day center in Tagajo City, Miyagi prefecture, 2km from the coast, which was destroyed by the tsunami.  AARJ has rebuilt it in a safer location and even added a new library.  According to the center manager, the “children’s emotional condition has significantly improved since this space was installed”.

AARJ also organized day trips to low-radiation areas for children displaced from their home towns.  “I am so happy to see my children enjoying themselves”, said one mother, who added that she now realized how much “unexpressed stress” her children were enduring because they were unable to play outside.

Some of the worst suffering in the affected areas has been borne by elderly people in temporary housing complexes, cut off from home, family and friends, often bereaved, and suffering multiple mental and physical health problems.  According to AARJ, these evacuees “tended to isolate themselves from society, as the complexes were often located in remote places(...)  Considering the relatively reserved culture of the Tohoku region, there was an urgent need to facilitate communication among residents to prevent them from becoming isolated, and to prevent the risks of committing suicide.”

AARJ and MMH supported more than 7,500 evacuees by providing physical and occupational therapists, counselors and community events such as physical exercise, gardening and cooking classes, concerts and mobile clinics throughout the region.

In fact gardening has proved particularly important for communities in temporary housing.  AARJ estimates that about 40% of evacuees used to grow vegetables and flowers in small home farms, now abandoned inside the radiation zone.  The charity provided plant pots and allotment spaces to residents and established gardening groups.  One participant said, “After three long years of living in a temporary housing complex, my physical condition had gone down because there’s nothing to do.  But today I built wooden frames for gardening activities and it felt great”.

The final rehabilitation project supported by QFF in the medical field, with a budget of 38 million yen, complements this work.  Eco Foods is a charity which uses gardening to reduce stress and improve the health of evacuees.  The project offers employment to farmers and fishermen whose livelihoods have been lost. It also provides a source of nutrition to their children, who live in temporary accommodation without proper cooking facilities.

According to the charity, residents have“economic problems, because they lost their source of income, and psychological problems because they lost their spirit. They have lost their desire to improve their lives.  As a result, more and more people are becoming mentally and physically ill.”

So Eco Foods has put evacuees to work growing vegetables.  The aim is that, as residents spend more time outside, opportunities for social interaction will increase and their sense of isolation will diminish.  The charity hopes to reduce family problems by encouraging parents to garden, cook and eat with their children, and to reduce financial problems by producing crops to sell in local shops.

In this case, as in many others, charities and overseas donors have filled in gaps in government subsidy, and provided creative solutions to alleviate suffering.  The people of Tohoku are famously stoic, but the trauma of the disaster and its ongoing legacy of contamination and community dispersal is a heavy burden.  With the support of charities and donors such as the Qatar Friendship Fund, that burden may gradually become easier to bear.
 

 

 

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