Pictures waiting their owner at a shelter in Onagawa. Credits: Caritas Japan 2011

Pictures waiting their owner at a shelter in Onagawa.
Credits: Caritas Japan 2011

Caritas has launched a new emergency programme for Japan to provide earthquake survivors food and other aid items, counselling and help in getting back to work.

Over 15,000 people died in the 9-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami which hit north-eastern Japan on 11 March this year.

Millions of households were affected with over 370,000 houses and buildings destroyed. People were either evacuated or faced life at home without electricity and sometimes water.

The government of Japan has responded effectively to the needs, but some gaps still exist which Caritas proposes to fill.

“Life is not easy for people evacuated from their houses,” says Fr. Daisuke Narui, Secretary General of Caritas Japan. “Our first priority is to make sure our activities last and we are there for the earthquake survivors for many years to come.”

The new Caritas confederation emergency programme aims to reach 19,000 people through its national member Caritas Japan.

The programme will run to September at the cost of €2,535,490 ($3.7 million).

Activities for range from providing items such as blankets and health products to conducting mental health assessments on the affected community and offering support where needed to helping those whose businesses were affected to get back to work.

This initial phase will be followed on by a 3-5 year recovery and rehabilitation project.

Following the March disaster, Caritas Japan immediately sent a team to Sendai, one of the worst-affected areas. They assessed the situation and provided people with material and psychological support.

An important part of Caritas Japan’s work in the early months was recruiting and managing teams of volunteers to help with the disaster.

“So far over 1,100 volunteers have come to us from all over Japan. We host them in parishes and then we send them to people’s houses and to the public shelters to help people,” says Fr Narui.

He says that apart from much solidarity being offered from within Japan, there has also been a lot of global solidarity.

“We receive so many emails and letters from schoolchildren all over the world. They send us money and they pray for us. It’s very encouraging to receive such support and we give out the letters to the earthquake-affected people,” he says.

Please call Michelle Hough on +39 06 69879721 or +39 334 2344136 or hough@caritas.va with any requests.