29 March 2011: Plan’s aid response in Japan continues with the distribution of ‘family kits’ at relief centres in the worst affected cities of Ishinomaki and Tagajo in Miyagi prefecture.
A kit contains items such as soap, a towel, toothbrush, crayons, underwear etc to meet basic needs of families living in evacuation centres.
In addition to kits, Plan staff also distributed blankets and some toys for children at 4 secondary schools which are being used as shelters for 2,450 people. At each centre, survivors of the tsunami and neighbours formed volunteer groups and helped in the distribution of aid.
Making a difference
Reactions from families who received kits showed that they made a huge difference for them. “Can I have one more notebook?” asked a primary school girl looking after her little sister. “We were all waiting for new underwear. We can’t wash our clothes as we can only use water for drinking,” said a middle-aged woman.
”This is an unprecedented disaster that has affected everyone. Even though children remain at the centre of Plan’s response, our aid activities are intended for the whole family,” said Unni Krishnan, Plan’s Disaster Response Policy Coordinator.
“When parents have their mind at rest, they can look after their children in a better way,” he added.
The needs of people living in shelter have been changing constantly. The most appreciated item in the ‘family kit’ was underwear. “We have been unable to take bath for days, wash underwear or even change clothes. It might not cause immediate harm to our health but it is very stressful,” a woman at a relief centre told Plan staff.
When asked what she would like to do to make her children feel better, a mother-of-two replied: “I would like to let them take bath because we only took it once in 2 weeks.”
Child care a priority
Plan started its first phase of aid response following a field visit by its experts to Ishinomaki and Tagajo, where they encountered harrowing scenes and accounts of destruction. The team identified areas where it could provide targeted relief.
In addition to the distribution of emergency materials, Plan will be providing educational support to the children who cannot access school or receive child care services. “We have also identified psychosocial care for children as one of the main areas of our response,” said Sato Ikuro, Plan’s Programme Manager in Japan.