Why does Japan need helping hands?

I was living in Japan at the time of the Kobe earthquake, about 50 miles away in Kyoto. The response from the government both locally and nationally was pathetic and it was disturbing to watch the fires and the lack of emergency assistance in the aftermath. But now I particularly remember the years of suffering for those who lost their homes. Business and infrastructure was back to normal in months but it took over 5 years to provide accommodation for everyone.

This time it is totally different. The problems are much more complicated and the general illogical and unfounded panic about radiation fuelled by overseas media and governments is diverting attention away from those who really need help. The government response has been immeasurably better than Kobe and deserves far more praise from overseas. However this disaster has hit an area of Japan that is poor, rural and with limited resources to help itself. In the coming days food, water, fuel will make it through. In the coming months they will ‘clear up’ and start building new accommodation. The world’s media will look elsewhere. But there will be some deeply disturbing problems that will last for years and need ongoing support and there is one in particular which I wish to highlight.

The earthquake hit at 2.46pm on a Friday. Most children will have been in school, separated from their families. Space is limited in Japan and in many cases new larger Japanese schools are built on land in hillsides landscaped to make space when no other was available. Many will have seen these schools on TV, now turned into refuges with iconic SOS letters drawn in huge letters on the playground. The children’s parents may have been in the town or village by the coast, perhaps fishermen or running a local shop or business. In these coastal towns and villages, we know vast numbers did not escape the tsunami but may have left their children behind. Many children will have lost mothers of fathers or even all their relatives.

Stories are starting to emerge from Save the Children about children searching for their parents. In some cases there do not seem to be any relatives to help them. These children face an unimaginably tough time ahead and will need support over many years.

Helping Hands for Japan is committed to long-term assistance which will be concentrated on the children who have lost parents. It is our intention to visit the areas affected and give money directly to fund the people working locally for this purpose. We hope to assist those helping with children’s psychological issues and organisations facilitating adoption where this is appropriate.

We hope that anyone reading this will give their support to our cause in any way they can.

David Lee
Helping Hands for Japan