Partnership Meeting on the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami 2018


Seven Years on from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Presentation by Masahito Yamazawa, Director
General, The GEJET Recovery, JRCS

Presentation by Masahito Yamazawa, Director General, The GEJET Recovery, JRCS

In the 7 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (GEJET) caused over 20 thousand fatalities and missing persons, the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) has distributed the donations from overseas (approximately 100.2 billion yen, US$935 million) to provide support to the disaster victims. For the JRCS, it was the first time since the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 to manage a contribution of this scale. Catching up with the needs of the affected people was no small undertaking for the organization because their necessity kept changing over time, becoming increasingly diversified.

In the Partnership Meeting this time, the following objectives were pursued: To share with the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies the lessons and challenges that emerged in the JRCS’ post-disaster activities over the past 7 years; to hold discussions on strengthening of the society's resilience to disaster; and to send a message formulated by the JRCS.

While more than 90% of the recovery assistance initiatives projected by the JRCS are completed, some activities have been ongoing. For the affected population including senior citizens who are still displaced in temporary housing, the psychological care and health support programs are still in progress while public education programs for disaster prevention continue to be carried out.


A participant speaking in the Q&A session
of the meeting

A participant speaking in the Q&A session of the meeting

Attended by approximately 100 participants including 48 attendees representing the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies overseas, the meeting was held over 3 days from February 26 through 28. The schedule of the conference was divided into two parts; the meeting held in Tokyo on February 26, and a tour of the three affected prefectures, i.e., Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, conducted on February 27 and 28.

At the meeting, the JRCS reported the accomplishments achieved by their recovery assistance programs, as well as the lessons and issues that emerged along the process. The JRCS’ initiatives to act on a third-party assessment and advice were also presented. Additionally, their preparedness in case of any future major disaster was explained. Afterwards, a vehement exchange of opinions took place at the Q&A session.

For the JRCS’ initiatives, please click the link below.
Recovery Assistance Programme Report [PDF]

The student team of the “Simplest Naiic”

The student team of the “Simplest Naiic” project

In the invited lecture captioned “Seven Years Later”, Mr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Professor Emeritus of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, and Chairman of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), presented various issues that were brought about by the GEJET and have still been lingering to this day.
Additionally, a student team from the Simplest Naiic project made a presentation, “Next is Our Turn: Revisit the NAIIC”, as they called it. Having reflected on the Fukushima nuclear accident through a perspective of the senior high school students residing in Fukushima prefecture, their view was that the underlying cause leading up to the accident lay close to us.

A Message sent out by the JRCS

The message that the JRCS formulated for release, summarizing the discussion at the Partnership Meeting, refers to the following six areas. For a full version of the message, please click here [PDF].

  • To prepare for the alarming increase of catastrophic disasters seen everywhere in the world these days, emergency response is not solely enough. It is imperative that the support be provided by a holistic approach embracing the entire “disaster management cycle” including the recovery assistance phase.
  • Of all the disaster management cycle phases, the recovery assistance requires a collaborative alliance across diverse stakeholders including the administrative bodies and volunteers, and the alliance needs to be something that rotates about the axis of beneficiaries’ proactive involvement. To forge such an alliance, assignment of roles and activities must be straightened out in advance.
  • To meet a wide variety of needs that grow in the recovery phase, the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies need to have in place the organizational flexibility and a mechanism to receive international support and assistance.
  • The actual cases and experience of the JRCS’ recovery activities following the GEJET, should be accumulated and shared.
  • The JRCS is willing to contribute to devising the detailed global standards for the recovery assistance activities, in collaboration with the Movement partners, based on the lessons gained through the GEJET recovery assistance project.
  • The recovery assistance should lead to enhanced resilience.

Tour of the Impacted Area

Having visited several sites including the Iwate Prefectural Government’s office, Onagawa Community Medical Center, and the former school building of Okawa Elementary School, the group moved to Fukushima Prefecture. Through the windows of the bus, as it was driving along the Joban Expressway and then heading south on the Route 6, the tour participants saw the empty streets of the “difficult to return” zones including Namie Town and Okuma Town, which had been left deserted despite lifting of the mandatory evacuation order. They also observed the surroundings of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and the space radiation dosimeters standing on roadside. Staff of the JRCS Fukushima Chapter onboard the bus answered the questions from the tour participants on the decontamination status after the Fukushima Daiichi accident, challenges to the residents who had returned their homes, etc.

The Red Cross Health Class held at the
temporary housing complex in Katsurao Village

The Red Cross Health Class held at the temporary housing complex in Katsurao Village

The group visited the “Red Cross Health Class” held at a community venue in the public housing complex in Katsurao Village, Miharu Town, organized by the Fukushima Chapter, where the tour participants shared some time with the people living there. Aiming to help the residents maintain their well-being, the activities of the Red Cross Health Class are also designed for enhancing communication with the people living in the vicinity and still ongoing.
One of the tour participants, who joined a relaxation program using a hot towel, made a remark, “It’s marvelous that the JRCS is continuing their activities even 7 years after the disaster, focusing on the community. It is helpful not only in maintaining health of the residents but in restoring the community or providing psychosocial support.” The experience gave the tour attendees an opportunity to appreciate the activities of the Red Cross Health Class, which constitutes an integral part of the JRCS recovery assistance project.

Participants provided an explanation about
radiation measurement at
Commutan Fukushima

Participants provided an explanation about radiation measurement at Commutan Fukushima

Subsequently, the group visited the Fukushima Prefectural Centre for Environmental Creation (a.k.a. Commutan Fukushima), where they enhanced their knowledge and understanding of the outline of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant accident, the current environment in Fukushima, basics of radiation, etc., seeing the displays or given explanation by the facility staff.

Having finished the 3-day meeting and the observation tour, the group assembled at a hotel in Koriyama City to hold a wrap-up meeting to discuss the message presented by the JRCS at the meeting and the observations made by the participants during the tour. Divided into groups, the attendees put together some lessons that should be integrated into the entire Red Cross organization, learning from the 7-year disaster response/recovery assistance operation carried out by the JRCS. Of them, some lessons are featured as below:

  • Having seen the JRCS’ activities, I was struck by the importance of learning from the past disaster and the need for chronicling it. Meanwhile, we may have an unprecedented disaster beyond our imagination, like the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident. Therefore, we need to make ourselves ready in dual sense, for something beyond our premises while learning the lessons of the past.
  • In the recovery efforts ongoing in Onagawa Town, I was strongly impressed that the citizens were producing a new value in the community, focusing on sustainability and creativity. In our initiative of “Building Back Better”, we need to give emphasis to the risk mitigation that encompasses other vulnerabilities—not only unexpected events but also those that constitute social problems.
  • Community empowerment is vital in carrying out recovery support, in which sense I appreciate the JRCS’ activities addressing the community. In the same way as providing support to evacuees, it is also important to provide training etc. to the community members, especially to the youth, to enhance preparedness for disasters.

The Partnership Meeting on the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami 2018 has made its mark as an occasion not only for sharing the JRCS’ 7-year-long activities with the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies, but for starting to consider the disaster recovery support as a holistic effort by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.