Six months after the tsunami, survivors in Japan are still experiencing the emotional impact of the disaster, says global child rights organisation Plan International.
The earthquake and tsunami which hit the north-east region of Japan on March 11 left 15,763 people dead, over 4,000 missing and nearly 6,000 injured.
“Although many children appear to be coping well, there are reports of behavioural changes in some of the affected children. While some children seem more withdrawn than usual, others behave irritably and even aggressively,” said Margriet Blaauw, Plan Japan’s Psychosocial Programming Advisor.
Given the unprecedented scale of the disaster, Plan, for the first time, launched an emergency response in Japan which ordinarily raises funds for organisation’s programmes in developing countries.
The emotional needs of children and communities and their ability to cope with the psychosocial effects of the disaster have been at the centre Plan’s targeted response in the disaster-affected Miyagi prefecture. Plan staff on the ground report that tsunami survivors are still haunted by the devastating tragedy.
Plan has established a partnership with Care Miyagi, a local group of psychologists from three different professional associations. So far 40 workshops have been facilitated for 2300 teachers and parents on children’s well-being and self-care. These workshops will continue as more requests from schools come in.
Gabriel Kazuo Tsurumi, Executive Managing and National Director of Plan Japan said: “Whatever the lessons the rest of the world is learning from Japan in rapid physical recovery, there is a lot that Japan can learn from others, particularly on overcoming the emotional impact of the crisis and avoiding long term emotional harm.”
“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,” he added.
As part of Plan’s commitment to facilitate children’s participation in all its programmes, the organisation has run child media projects with school children in Miyagi. About 60 children have already received training in still and video camera to express their views and become part of the emotional recovery process.
Over the next six months Plan will continue to focus on psychosocial care for children as a top priority of its ongoing response and support parents, teachers and health workers in reaching out to as many children as possible. Also, initiatives involving children’s participation such as the child media project will be further expanded to cover more children in the tsunami affected areas.
• Plan is one of the oldest and largest children’s development organisations in the world with programmes in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty.
• The organisation works with more than 37,900 communities each year, covering a population of 28 million children.
• Plan has raised approximately USD 2 million for its emergency response in Japan.
Senior Communication Officer, Plan Japan
Mobile: +81 (0)80 3303 6712, Skype: mina_funakoshi
Media Manager, Plan International Headquarters
Mobile: +44 (0) 7500 066 891