‘Still humanitarian gaps in Japan relief,’ says Church World Service

CWS, local partners providing supplies, health services to struggling cities

TOKYO, Japan - Thursday, April 21, 2011 -- In Japan’s Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, where more than 5,500 of its 163,000 citizens were lost, shops are opening and road repairs are beginning in a city that three weeks ago was covered in water. But, reports humanitarian agency Church World Service, there are still “humanitarian gaps.”

Although overall relief efforts now are moving ahead as planned along the country’s quake and tsunami-decimated northeast coast, Church World Service and its Japanese partners are working to fill those gaps, providing food, water, health and medical services, hygiene items, clothing and fuel.

Coordinating Church World Service efforts from Tokyo, Takeshi Komino, head of emergency response for CWS’s Asia Pacific Region, said the agency and its local Japanese partner organizations Peace Boat, Civic Force and Japan Lutheran Emergency Relief (JLER) are distributing supplies to at least 10,000 people in Ishinomaki and Kesunnuma Cities in Miyagi. The relief materials were loaded onto four 10-ton trucks in Tokyo and delivered to people in the stricken cities.

As part of the relief effort CWS partner Peace Boat is providing 2,000 hot meals per day, assisting evacuees in the area and cleaning debris from evacuation sites, houses and roads in the city and in surrounding areas.

Because of the severity and the scope of the crisis CWS has expanded its U.S. fundraising appeal, to support its response, which centers on emergency relief support to some 25,000 individuals living at 100 evacuation sites in northeastern Japan’s Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate, Ibaragi and Tochigi prefectures.

Local Japanese partners working with CWS to respond to the disaster include the Japan Platform, Peace Boat, Civic Force, Japan Lutheran Emergency Relief, NICCO, OXFAM Japan and the National Christian Council.

Mobile med clinics move to places of need

CWS's Komino reports that the health condition among evacuees is stabilizing but that "a lot of cases of flu and chronic diseases" remain, which CWS partners continue to address by providing access to medicine and health care at mobile and stationary clinics.

In Natori and Iwanuma Cities, Miyagi prefecture, and Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture, CWS’s partner NICCO is providing stationary clinics and mobile medical services to at least 7,500 people, with Tohoku International Clinic in Natori serving as hub for stationary medical services. Elsewhere in the Otomo area, the teams have provided mobile medical assistance at ten evacuation sites. The mobile medics also will provide at least 5,000 people in Rikuzentakata evacuation centers with basic hygiene items, temporary toilets and communication services.

Psychosocial recovery issues are still high on the response agenda. Komino says CWS is working with OXFAM Japan partner the Japan Organization for International Cooperation on Family Services to provide counseling and to secure safe, private living spaces for pregnant women and women with young children who are still living in crowded evacuation centers in Ofunato, Miyako and Kamaishi Cities in Iwate Prefecture.

Generators, pressure washers, washing machines for Rikuzentakata evacuation centers

In an effort to provide evacuation center residents in Rikuzentakata City’s Otomo and Hirota towns with some household necessities, CWS partners have purchased and delivered generators, high-pressure cleaners, washing machines and temporary toilets to evacuation centers.

Some 135,000 people still are living in registered evacuation sites across Japan, according to latest Associated Press reports, and thousands more may be living in unregistered evacuation sites.

The extent of damage still is unclear. Further complicating the recovery is the continuing crisis at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where the government last week placed the severity level of the meltdown on par with that of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

HOW TO HELP: Contributions to support Church World Service emergency response efforts may be made online, or mailed to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515 (Appeal #699-Y). Text CWS to 50555 to donate $10.

Media Contacts: Lesley Crosson, Church World Service, (212) 870-2676, media@churchworldservice.org Jan Dragin - 24/7 - (781) 925-1526, jdragin@gis.net