Expanded Effort Targets Hardest-Hit Areas, Most Vulnerable People


WASHINGTON — With a focus on helping the most vulnerable people affected by the earthquake and tsunami, Direct Relief International and the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) on April 7 announced their financial support of several efforts with local Japanese groups providing urgently needed assistance for the elderly and disabled, as well as coordinating relief efforts in affected districts.

More than $1 million in cash from the JACL-Direct Relief Japan Relief and Recovery Fund is being provided to five projects managed by different Japanese organizations. The emergency initiatives were approved following an intensive review and consultations in Japan among the Japanese groups’ leaders, JACL National Executive Director Floyd Mori, Direct Relief Director of International Programs Brett Williams, and faculty of Meiji Gakuin University.

The projects enable Japanese groups to continue to expand the provision of essential emergency-response services in their communities and include expanded coordination among private and volunteer relief efforts with local governments through Disaster Volunteer Centers, which serve as the hub of all relief activities in each district.

“Our goal is to ensure that resources that have been so generously donated directly assist the people in Japan who have suffered enormously in this tragedy,” Mori said.  “These initiatives with excellent Japanese organizations working both intensely and thoughtfully do just that.”

An estimated 30,000 people have been killed in the earthquake and tsunami, with 157,600 currently in shelters, according to news reports. In the north, near the epicenter of the quake, 150,000 houses in eight prefectures are without running water and 3.2 million homes are without electricity following a strong aftershock last week. Nighttime temperatures have been in the 30s.

In recognition of the many urgent needs of the affected people and the various groups seeking to help, JACL and Direct Relief are providing funding to the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC) to support its central role as the coordinating body for groups responding to the disaster.

“Our deep experience responding to emergencies has taught us that a well-coordinated response is the best way to reduce waste and duplication that often occurs in the chaotic aftermath of a disaster,” said Williams. “We have teamed up with JANIC to ensure that the NGOs working in the affected areas can be as productive as possible.”

The additional projects and organizations being funded were selected for their efforts to assist vulnerable people — such as the elderly who are home-bound in difficult-to-reach areas — as well as their critically important work in coordinating private relief efforts with local government agencies responsible for, but challenged by the scale of, overall relief and recovery efforts within their jurisdictions.

The organizations supported by the funding and their specific respective efforts are as follows:

• Service for Health in Asian and African Regions (SHARE) will focus on providing emergency medical and health-care support; it is sending a team of doctors, nurses, and logisticians to the Tohoku International Clinic and operating a mobile clinic in areas where all health facilities have been destroyed.

• Shanti Volunteer Association will transport relief supplies to remote and scattered evacuation centers in Kesennuma City, provide hot meals for people living in and out of evacuation centers, help clear debris from homes, and transport people to bathing areas to maintain sanitation.

• Shapla Neer is operating in the area immediately south of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, where other NGOs aren’t working. It has partnered with the local government to establish the Iwaki City Nakoso District Volunteer Center, where each district’s response is coordinated with local government entities and nonprofit groups.

• Japanese International Volunteer Center (JVC), which started as an agricultural support group, will launch nutritional support program to bring vegetables and other nutritious foodstuffs to food distribution sites.

Direct Relief and JACL will continue to work with and provide financial and technical assistance to local groups providing relief services in Japan. The five initiatives will draw down on an additional $1 million from the Relief and Recovery Fund, from which $400,000 was disbursed two weeks ago to the Association for Aid and Relief Japan (AAR).

The total of $1.4 million in cash disbursements represents 56 percent of the total funds received since the JACL-Direct Relief joint effort was formed last month.  A central focus of the JACL-Direct Relief effort is to support Japanese community groups assisting the most vulnerable people affected by the emergency.

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