Our work in Japan began in 1995, when we provided emergency response to the victims of the Kobe earthquake.
Today, our work is focused on helping communities rebuild after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, where a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the east coast of Japan triggered a devastating tsunami, leaving more than 16,000 people dead. 2,500 people are still reported as missing, and their bodies have never been found.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami created water surges reaching up to 133 feet high, which devastated many towns and prompted mass evacuations. The tsunami also flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant causing it to break down and begin to leak radioactive material. Over 200,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding areas.
In response to the humanitarian crisis, Doctors of the World Japan immediately jumped in to support the health services in Iwate and Fukushima prefectures. Our teams provided medical and psychological care in 16 shelters that housed more than 1,100 displaced Japanese from the surrounding communities. Doctors of the World Japan continues to provide medical care and support local NGO’s in the affected areas. In Minamisoma and Shinchi, two towns in Fukushima prefecture, our psychiatrists and nurses work to strengthen local health services by providing counseling, primary healthcare and advocacy for those affected.
After the natural disaster and subsequent Fukushima nuclear leak, thousands were evacuated from their homes – some areas are still under an evacuation order. In the areas where the order has been lifted, only 50% of the pre-disaster populations have returned – many of the returnees are elderly people who had no other choice but to return.
In these isolated communities, cases of elderly mental illness such as dementia have increased rapidly. We now support local communities in building social outreach programs and group activity classes to assist dementia sufferers and those who are experiencing early signs and symptoms of the disease.