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Kumamoto Earthquakes: One month passed. Listening to the voices of those unheard

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AAR Japan
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Standing by each of the survivors

Since April 15, the day after the earthquakes rocked Kumamoto prefecture, AAR Japan’s emergency response team collaborated with The Peace Project (an NPO represented by AAR Japan’s board member Ben Kato) to operate soup kitchens. As of May 8, the organizations conducted 34 soup kitchens and distributed 17,730 meals with plenty of vegetables such as pot-au-feu and tonjiru (pork and vegetable soup). As of May 8, AAR Japan delivered aid to 5 evacuation centers (in Kumamoto City, Aso City, town of Mashiki, and village of Nishi Hara) and 11 welfare centers (in Kumamoto City, village of Nishi Hara, village of South Aso, town of Ōzu, town of Mifune, town of Mashiki, and town of Kashima).

Survivors continue to live as evacuees even after one month since the earthquake. The survivors’ needs change daily.

AAR Japan draws upon 2 lessons from its past experiences with emergency response in Japan and in foreign countries: “Anticipated response” and “Listen to the voices of those unheard.” Examples of the former include providing adult diapers while other organizations focus on distributing baby diapers and providing sanitary products to evacuation centers where evacuees walk around in facilities with their shoes on. Examples of the latter include providing appropriate aid to the elderly and persons with disabilities (PWDs) who are less accessible. Many elderly and PWDs take shelter at facilities that they are accustomed to visiting because evacuation centers for the general public do not accommodate their needs. Among elderly/PWD welfare facilities, there are some that only provide day services and are therefore not built to host persons overnight. AAR Japan visits these facilities to conduct needs assessment and deliver necessary food items, sanitary products, and household goods.

Although emergency aid is no longer required, some welfare facilities still struggle to identify its needs, so there is a need to actively conduct detailed needs assessment at each of those facilities. An 83-year-old lady at the Ikoi no Sato welfare center (currently being utilized as an evacuation center) of the town of Mashiki said, “My house did not collapse, but was significantly damaged. I cannot clear the house by myself. I have not been able to get proper sleep because I fear the continuing aftershocks. My hip is weak and the mattress at evacuation center is worsening my lower-back pain.”

Since AAR Japan has been working closely with other support organizations, we were able to immediately communicate the needs to IMC (International Medical Corps), a professional medical association. IMC dispatched 4 nurses to Ikoi no Sato. Until AAR Japan’s visit, one government official had been managing Ikoi no Sato by himself, so he was appreciative when AAR Japan conducted a detailed needs assessment and coordinated with organizations with the proper expertise.

AAR Japan remains committed to conducting needs assessment by to listening closely to the voices of each evacuee.

In addition to many thanks for all the support, our relief activities of Kumamoto earthquake during April were supported by the donation from Mercy Relief.