The Great East Earthquake: Victims living in different situations mutually support each other

Disaster victims from Fukushima prefecture had a pleasant time on the Sunday afternoon of September 10th, in Musashino, Tokyo. They had evacuated from Fukushima and are taking shelter in and around the city. It was “Musashino Smile,” an organization which supports the evacuees, that organized the gathering, with assistance from AAR Japan. A total of 28 people participated. Junnko Matsuo, the person who organized the gathering, said, “It is difficult for some of the victims to attend a weekday party, so I planned a holiday lunch party so that more people can attend and enjoy a time of chatting.” The participants had an enjoyable time talking about recent happenings in their lives for about three hours over a buffet-style lunch. It was a superb lunch full of lively conversations.
Disaster victims from Fukushima prefecture having a pleasant time on an early Sunday afternoon.(10th, Sep. 2017)


The Great East Japan Earthquake:The Newly-built Katatsumuri, A Social Welfare Facility is now Completed

The previous Social Welfare Facility was lost in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake

 A social welfare facility, Katatsumuri, (“Katatsumuri means “snails” in Japanese) was founded in 2001 by approximately 20 families of children with intellectual disabilities. Initially, they rented an old structure in the vicinity of the seaport of Ohfunato City, Iwate Prefecture, and held various events such as tea parties and excursions. As well, the families undertook campaigns promoting access to helpful lifestyle advice and information among participants to create a valuable space for children in addition to their schools.
Staff members and users of Katatsumuri who
started apple-cultivation with aids from AAR Japan,
being accompanied by Akiko KATO (Left, AAR Japan).
(January 2015)


Vulnerability Multiplied in Syria—Report on the Survivors of Explosive Devices—

AAR Japan, an international NGO, has conducted assessment on the survivors of the conflict inside Syria and published this report, Vulnerability Multiplied in Syria – Report on the Survivors of Explosive Devices –, which makes 6 proposals.

Assessment for this report was conducted over the course of 2016 in cooperation with a Syrian NGO, Hand in Hand for Syria, which began by identifying patients and former patients of medical facilities in northern Syria and entailed interviews with 2,036 survivors of the conflict including 475 children. The result revealed that the majority, 57%, of the survivors were victims of air strikes, followed by other explosive devices (22%) such as landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and improvised explosive devices (IED). In addition, many of the survivors sustained severe injuries and impairments including amputation, visual and hearing impairments in addition to fractures and wounds, resulting in a high level of dependency in activities of daily life like eating, toilet, washing, and dressing.

Furthermore, given the health care system decimated in the conflict, many of these survivors do not have access to adequate medical care, rehabilitation services, or assistive devices. In addition to the physical and psychological burden on the survivors themselves, in the absence of functioning social welfare system, providing assistance in every step of daily life places an enormous burden on the family members as well, not to mention the significant economic impact in case of severe injuries and impairments of main breadwinners of the household.

Based on these findings, AAR Japan proposes the following to aid organizations working in Syria and donor countries, corporations, and individuals that provide indirect support to humanitarian aid in Syria.

1.    Include provision of rehabilitation services and assistive devices in the intervention in consideration of the conflict survivors;
2.    Help build local capacities, local organizations and volunteers working in Syria, to be able to provide rehabilitation and trauma response through training and financial support;
3.    Enhance food security and livelihood support to those who lost jobs due to injuries and impairments;
4.    Improve referral mechanisms across sectors in order to provide comprehensive support to the injured who are particularly vulnerable;
5.    Conduct awareness raising activities to reduce stigma and combat the loss of dignity particularly by the injured;
6.    Adapt the contents of risk education to reflect the context of the ongoing Syrian conflict to maximize the effect.


Zambia: Supporting the New Life of “Former Refugees”

AAR Japan has conducted relief activities in Zambia since 1984, for 33 years, when a widespread famine in Africa attracted worldwide attention. At the beginning, its support activities in medical, educational, agricultural and other fields were based in Meheba in the North-Western Province where many Angolan refugees sought shelter after fleeing the civil war in their home country. After many refugees returned home following the end of the Angolan Civil War in 2002, AAR Japan moved the base of its subsequent activities to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia and its environs. Since then, it has provided assistance to people who have tested positive for HIV/AIDS, as the issue became a serious problem at that time, and strengthened health services for mothers and children in farming villages where people have little or no access to medical services.

In March 2017, AAR Japan reopened its office in Meheba and launched activities to assist the joint efforts to build a community by the citizens of Zambia and “former refugees” from Angola who decided to settle in Zambia rather than returning to their home country.
Atsushi NAOE of AAR Japan visits households in the site (April 2017)


The Kumamoto Earthquake, One Year Later: Applying Lessons from the Disaster in Providing Aid

It has been nearly a year since the Kumamoto Earthquakes. During the earthquakes, the town of Mashiki and the village of Nishihara experienced two magnitude 7 earthquakes, and in the village of Minamiaso, the Aso-bridge collapsed due to a large-scale landslide. As of November 30th of last year, 4,165 additional earthquakes, which could be felt, had been recorded. The number of casualties, including 150 earthquake-related deaths, rose to 205 (Kumamoto Prefecture Crisis Management Disaster Prevention Division Announcement, March 3rd, report). Moreover, at its peak there were over 180,000 evacuees and 855 evacuation centers. Since the disaster, AAR Japan has been distributing meals and basic necessities and up to now has been providing aid to a social welfare facilities for people with disabilities and to those in temporary residences.

Rebuilding a Vital Place in the Village

During this earthquake, there were supply and staff shortages at the evacuation centers that were established to accommodate those who require special care, such as those with disabilities and the elderly. In addition, temporary residences had not been designed to be wheelchair accessible. It made us recognize again how easy it is for people with disabilities and the elderly to be put into difficult situations in times of disaster. Because of this, AAR Japan has focused on providing aid to people with disabilities, by supporting local organizations which work with people with disabilities and who are leading recovery efforts in  the region.

In Nishihara Village, 60% of the houses were completely or partially destroyed. Nishihara Tanpopo (Dandelion) House, a NPO near the village office, is the only social welfare facilities of its kind where people with disabilities go to process crops and prepare and sell bentos (lunch box) and snacks. During the day, it is a cafeteria filled with locals, and is a place where those facing economic hardships can enjoy a meal with others whilst lending a hand to the center.  It has become a central entity, a vital place in the village.
Even after the earthquake, the house has become an evacuation center for those disabled persons and staff who frequented, in addition to acting as a point from which supplies and meals could be distributed to nearby regions.
Tanpopo House’s cafeteria has a rich menu, including ramen and curry. (Jun.24th,2016)

I received support for the first time –The reality of Afghan Returnees

After July of last year, The Pakistan government strengthened its  repatriation policy of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and many people were forced to return to their home country. Among them, about 310,000 are referred to as “Non-registered returnees”. Because they were living without refugee registration in Pakistan, they could not get a certification from the United Nations for returning. Most of them have not received any support so far. Anisa Guru (age 33), a non-registered returnee, now lives with her six children in Nangahar Province, eastern Afghanistan. We talked to her about her living conditions.

"We have not received any support so far"

When I was eight years old, Afghanistan was in the midst of civil war from the then Mujahideen administration. So, our family evacuated to Pakistan. We lived peacefully after arriving in Peshawar, Pakistan. I lived with my family and got married when I was 16 years old. My husband could not read or write, so he worked selling fruit to support our family. The income was meagre but I was happy. I believed that life would get better once our children were born, grown and educated.
    I have six children. My eldest daughter is 16 years old, my eldest son is 14 years old, my second daughter 11 years old, my second son 8 years old and my third and fourth sons are six years old. My second daughter was born with a disability in one leg. She needed surgery, but we could not afford it. Considering her future, we borrowed money from relatives to pay for the surgery. However, there is still a disability on her leg. Then, a more tragic event befell our family. One day three years ago, a suicide bombing occurred in Sadel, Peshawar where we lived. My husband was involved in it and was killed. I fell over in shock on the spot. I have never had a more shocking and sad incident in my life to date. I did not have the knowledge to live or job. I did not know how to feed my six children. I asked my husband’s brother if he could provide just a place to live and he lent me 7000 yen to pay the rent. However, being a day labor, he could not afford to lend money. After a few months, he said to me that he could not pay the rent.  
 I thought that I had to live by myself somehow. I knocked on the doors of nearby houses, asking “Do you need help cleaning?” but nobody would hire me. The children would come to me and say “We are starving”. We only had a little bit of money at that time.
I visited nearby houses for work as hard as I could. Then a family asked, “Will you wash
 our laundry?” I answered immediately,” I will.” That was my first job. I could not earn enough money to let my children go to school, but they never got hungry anymore. I strongly remember feeling happy at that time since I was able to at least provide for my family by myself. The families that knew my situation gave me their kids’ old clothes, some extra food, and tips. My family was not able to live without them. That was my life in Pakistan.
    However, our life in Pakistan did not continue for long. The Pakistan government strengthened its policy of repatriating Afghan refugees. We believed that not only would the Pakistan police force us off there, but they would use violence because we were not registered refugees. That is why we decided to leave Pakistan.
Anisa(right) purchasing by coupons that AAR Japan distributed(Apr. 3rd, 2017)

    We live in Jalalabad, Nangahar Province with other families who cannot pay the full rent by themselves. I have to work for the rent nonetheless. It is completely different from Pakistan here. In Pakistan, I could walk out and work, but here it is too dangerous to do so. If anything happens to me, who will protect the children? We had not been able to receive any assistance from anyone. In order to return to Afghanistan from Pakistan, it is necessary to cross the border of Talkham in the Nangahar Province. Aid was distributed there. However, we could not receive it since our family was not registered as refugees. The Afghanistan government did not support us at all even when I asked for help at the refugee・returnee management office numerous times. These $200 coupons and solar panels that I have received from AAR Japan is the first bit of support I’ve received. With this, I can let my children eat thanks to this support. I hope that these kinds of problems disappear and I am able to live safely.

Anisa's brothers-in-law carried goods on truck bed(Apr.3rd, 2017)
Anisa went back home on truck bed with her brothers-in-law because they have a custom which women hardly walk out alone(Apr.3rd, 2017)

AAR will continue to support persons with disabilities, women like Anisa, are and others who have yet to receive any support. We are grateful for your continued co-operation and kind emergency donations.

English editing by Mr. Joseph Scutella


Afghanistan: Distribution of daily necessities to afghan returnees continues

The Pakistani government strengthened its repatriation policy towards Afghan refugees, with more than 600,000 people forcibly returned from last year. According to a survey that AAR Japan conducted on 3,800 households in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, from the end of February to March more than half of respondents were in need without any aid. AAR is distributing emergency relief supplies to these people.

To ensure that each person has what they really need 

The local government ordered the Babo Gulu’s family to leave their house immediately after the repatriation policy of the Pakistan government was strengthened last year. They were not given any time to prepare. They scraped the cost to return home somehow by selling household goods, and managed to get to Afghanistan half a year ago. They said that they have hardly any money.

In our interview with 3,800 households, we found that the returnees face difficulties in many areas such as where to live, food, education, medical care and so on. We decided to hand out relief supplies to 580 households, especially to persons with disabilities and families where the woman is the head of the household and who have not received any assistance. Tickets for solar panel sets (solar panel, charger, lamp, etc.) were distributed to all these households. As for the others supplies, the items that they already have differed depending on the household, so we distributed coupons so that they can purchase what they need by themselves.
The AAR Staff interviewing from Afghan refugees.(c)(March 29th, 2017)