Progress report: One year of emergency relief and continued economic recovery

News and Press Release
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Bija Gutoff
Senior Writer/Editor

One year after the worst natural disaster in Japan’s history — the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 — Mercy Corps continues to work with our partner agencies, Peace Winds Japan and PlaNet Finance Japan, to help the Japanese people rebuild. Thanks to your support, we have brought much-needed assistance to four towns where 148,000 people live and are recovering from the disaster. On their behalf, we thank you and offer this brief report of the progress they have made.

After the Disaster: Bringing Relief
In the first days and weeks after the earthquake and tsunami, our team focused on providing a wide range of relief items to survivors.

BASIC SUPPLIES Mercy Corps and Peace Winds provided relief supplies — tents, tarps, blankets, mattresses, space heaters, kerosene, medical masks, clothing, bottled water, diapers, toilet paper, school supplies and food — to 42,000 people living in shelters.

VOUCHERS We provided vouchers that 6,300 survivors used to purchase goods — food, clothing and other supplies — from local merchants. People prioritized their own needs while supporting local economies.

MOBILE SHOPS We supported 15 mobile shops in two cities that brought goods to local people and provided a living for merchants in Rikuzentakata, where almost all commerce was destroyed.

BUS PROGRAM We started a bus program that provided 7,330 rides to allow survivors to shop for basics and access essential services like medical care and banks, while boosting the business of damaged shops.

After the Disaster: Helping Children Recover
Mercy Corps recognized that the disaster was profoundly upsetting to children. Our programs, described below, helped 2,300 children and the adults in their lives heal from the trauma.

COMFORT FOR KIDS Comfort for Kids builds up the ability of local communities to help children recover from the emotional effects of a large-scale disaster. We customized this program for Japan and incorporated activities for adults.

MOVING FORWARD We partnered with Peace Winds Japan and Nike to introduce Moving Forward, a program that uses sports to help young people recover physically, socially, mentally and emotionally from traumas associated with disasters.

ART CARAVAN We worked with a Japanese art therapy specialist to offer art activities to affected children. Art Caravan helps kids by letting them express themselves through creative play.

Looking Ahead: Boosting Economic Recovery As the cleanup continues, our team has shifted focus to economic recovery.

SALMON HATCHERY We provided equipment and funds to quickly rebuild the hatchery in Minamisanriku, which processes more salmon than anywhere else in Japan. Our rapid response allowed the hatchery to harvest eggs and raise fish in time for spring release. These fish will provide a huge boost — $8 million in annual sales as well as jobs — to the town’s economy.

FISH MARKET We provided a generator, forklifts, fish tanks, ice storage and scales to help reopen the Ofunato fish market, which supports the fishing industry of the entire town. The market employs 20 people who serve dozens of fishermen and 100 vendors who buy, sell and process salmon and other kinds of fish.

SEAWEED PRODUCTION We are supporting fishing associations in Minamisanriku to restart the production and processing of wakame, a seaweed staple of the Japanese diet. Wakame processing employs 400 local women who traditionally do this work. Mercy Corps helped purchase 100 sets of equipment — tubs and containers for boiling, cooling and preserving — to grow the seaweed and harvest and process the crop.

BUSINESS LOANS Mercy Corps partnered with local groups to establish a fund that provides grants and subsidies to help small and medium-size businesses rehire workers and rebuild their operations. The program also supports the start-up of new local businesses.