Emotional first-aid for Japan's children

News and Press Release
Originally published

4 April 2011: Plan is continuing its targeted aid response in Japan, keeping mental, social and emotional care of children at the centre of its relief efforts.

An orientation session for nearly 300 school teachers in Tagajo will be held this week, helping teachers to better support the psychosocial needs of children. The session will be led by Plan's Disaster Response Policy Coordinator Unni Krishnan and clinical psychotherapist Prof Machiko Kamiyama.

Thousands still homeless

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has also identified psychosocial support for children as a key need in Japan's disaster affected areas. There are currently 170,500 people still living in more than 2,000 evacuation centres.

Plan has distributed blankets, toys for children and 1,000 family kits at 4 evacuation centres in Tagajo and Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture. A family kit contains basic items such as a towel, soap, notebook, toothpaste, nail-clippers and underwear.

Plan teams, assisting relief operations on the ground, have spoken to affected people in evacuation centres, many of whom are still coming to terms with the disaster.

Children deeply unsettled

A mother of 2 young girls at Ishinomaki said: "Our house and my daughter's nursery school were all washed away by the tsunami. We are now staying with my husband's family. My 5-year-old daughter has been going to that nursery school for 1 year, but she will now be separated from her friends because the nursery school will never open again."

"For a few days she kept on asking about her teacher and friends. Now she seems to have understood the situation, and has stopped talking about her teacher or friends. My daughter has become very sensitive about sounds and never leaves me."

Anxiety and fear

Takano, head of a nursery school in Sendai said: "The tsunami did not reach our nursery school, but there are many children here who are frightened that an earthquake will happen again. They don't want to leave their mum. Smaller children or children with disabilities cannot even express their anxiety and fear. When we experience tremors, some children open their eyes widely and cannot move. Every child needs psychological support."

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