Emotional well-being of tsunami survivors, especially children, is key for Japan’s recovery efforts to be successful, says child rights organisation Plan International.
In a robust response, Japan is rolling out the world’s costliest disaster recovery plan in history and is rapidly reconstructing and rebuilding in the areas ravaged by 2011 tsunami.
Plan is urging the Japanese government to more vigorously integrate emotional care support for survivors in its recovery plan. The organisation is supported by eminent psychologists and mental health professionals in its assessment that psychosocial care assistance is vital to prevent affected people from advancing into stages where they will need specialist psychological care.
“In addition to reconstruction, the success of Japan’s great recovery effort also rests on the emotional well-being of tsunami survivors. A significant population has been affected by the tsunami and there is still an overwhelming need of emotional support for the survivors,” said Gabriel Kazuo Tsurumi, Executive Managing and National Director of Plan Japan.
The earthquake and tsunami which hit the north-east region of Japan on March 11 left nearly 16,000 people dead, over 3,000 missing and more than 6,000 injured. Over 340,000 people are still living in temporary accommodation.
Given the unprecedented scale of the disaster, Plan, for the first time, launched an emergency response in Japan which otherwise raises funds and implements programmes in developing countries. The emotional needs of children and communities and their ability to cope with emotional effects of the disaster have been at the centre of Plan’s targeted response in Miyagi prefecture which suffered the worst damage and highest casualties.
One year on, tsunami survivors are still experiencing the emotional impact of the disaster. Psychologists and staff working with Plan Japan have come across of cases of children and adults who are going through acute distress coming to terms with their changed circumstances.
“There are children who are scared to flush the toilet as the sound of running water reminds them of the tsunami. Teachers have also reported cases of children playing tsunami games, showing anxiety or losing interest in studies,” said Mie Kashiwade who is leading Plan Japan’s emergency aid response unit in Sendai.
“Among adults, issues like depression and addiction to gambling and alcohol have come to light. There are also concerns about adults, especially elderly people living in temporary accommodation, who are experiencing loneliness and isolation.”
Plan Japan through its aid response so far has reached 25000 affected people, mostly children. The organisation has worked very closely with schools, teachers and communities making them aware how they can address children’s emotional needs and their own.
“Plan’s experience in dealing with natural disasters such as the 2004 Asian tsunami and more recently the Haiti earthquake in 2010, has been instrumental in steering the organisation’s response in Japan which fills in a particular gap in wider recovery efforts,” said Mr Tsurumi.
- Founded 75 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children’s development organisations in the world with programmes in 50 developing countries across Asia, Africa and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty.
- The organisation works with more than 58,000 communities, covering a population of 56 million children.
- Plan started its operations in Japan in 1983.