Watching the earthquake and tsunami disaster unfold in northeastern Japan this week has been painful for all of us. Hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted, and aftershocks continue on a daily basis, reminding the Japanese people that this tragedy is far from over.
World Concern, a member of the Global Relief Alliance, is responding by working through alliance partners that were already in place and at work in Japan prior to the disaster. Some may wonder why we’re not loading our staff onto a plane and heading into the disaster zone. Believe me, as a member of our disaster response team, it’s hard for us to “wait this one out,” but it’s important that we do so.
After the Haiti earthquake, we were able to respond immediately because we have worked in that country for 30 years, had staff in place, and were able to make an immediate impact, utilizing resources and donation dollars in the best way possible. But the disaster in Japan is very different on a number of levels.
I have been encouraged by the response being undertaken in Japan. Countless lives have no doubt been spared by the efficiency of their mobilized volunteers, military, and emergency response teams. Rapid assessments, organized distribution lines for rations and water, and shelter provisions reduce uncertainty and anxiety. Heavy equipment has been mobilized, clearing roads and restoring communications and transportation. Japan has very accurate national registries (hence their ability to report the numbers of those who are missing) and has reached out to contact everyone in the affected areas. The Japanese have been a model of disaster response, and we have lessons to learn about how we can improve our own system in North America to match theirs.
Contrast this with Haiti’s 2010 earthquake or Cyclone Nargis, which hit Myanmar in 2008, where the number of victims will never truly be known due to lack of census records in the affected areas. The needs in these countries overwhelmed the fragile states, and basic necessities were unattainable. They desperately needed international support, simply to get food, water, and basic medical attention. World Concern had offices and programs in these places prior to the disasters and responded directly. We have continued to work – and will continue – in these countries long after they have faded from the headlines.
In Japan, after the immediate search and rescue and medical emergency needs are met, Japan’s disaster response teams will determine their need for additional help. Meanwhile, we are standing by, ready to deploy if needed in the field. Until that time, we will provide technical assistance and support to our partners on the ground, maximizing our team’s expertise and your donations.
Please join us in praying for the victims of this tragedy and their families, for the government of Japan as it coordinates the response, and for Christian partners and the church in Japan, as they work to support the local authorities and care for their neighbors.
For more information, visit www.worldconcern.org/disasters.