Lifesaving aid from ShelterBox is helping families in Japan as they begin to rebuild their lives after the earthquake and tsunami that hit the country on March 11.
The charity’s work is being welcomed by officials in Japan’s prefectural government system, who say ShelterBoxes will be used to provide emergency assistance to the most vulnerable.
Takanori Hirai, director of the Climate Change and Energy Policy Division for the Iwate Prefectural Government, said: “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your kind donation of ShelterBoxes after Japan’s horrible earthquake and tsunami disaster.
“These ShelterBoxes will be used in a variety of ways; as shelters in the affected areas, protecting the privacy of those living in shelters and creating a space for families to live in.
“We have the deepest respect for the efforts that ShelterBox is carrying out throughout the world. We hope that your organization will grow even larger in the future.”
ShelterBox tents have been used to provide privacy and restore dignity to families sheltering in an evacuation center – a school gymnasium – in Ofunato, a coastal town that was devastated by the tsunami.
Among the families to receive a ShelterBox tent were Rah and Rie Hatakeyama and their sons, 9-year-old Kahoh and 11-month-old Yasushi.
Speaking to ShelterBox Field Operations Specialist Mark Pearson (U.K.), Rah said: “My house disappeared in the tsunami. Since the tent arrived it has made things much better for us. At the evacuation center, privacy is important to us.
“When the tsunami came I was outside my home. We saw smoke and we ran away to higher ground. Everyone is helping each other at the evacuation center and we hope Ofunato will recover in the future.”
Some 200 tsunami survivors, a mixture of young families and elderly people, are sheltering in the school gymnasium.
Pearson added, “It’s snowing heavily on a regular basis here and there’s very limited kerosene to fuel the heaters inside. Our tents are being used by young families as a private space and a sleeping area. This is incredibly important for morale and is giving the families back a sense of dignity.
“Also these evacuation centers are open places to anyone and the tents add a sense of security for people’s belongings.”
The Japanese government has said that 8,800 temporary housing units will be built in Iwate Prefecture. In Ofunato 1,400 are being built and it is expected to take between three to four months for them to be completed.
According to OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), more than 27,500 people have been confirmed dead or remain unaccounted for.
A survey found that of this number more than 60 percent were over the age of 60 – meaning the elderly were the most affected by this disaster. This saddening statistic means that the elderly were probably not able to evacuate quickly enough despite the tsunami warnings.
For more information, visit www.shelterbox.org.