Coastal communities in Japan are still reeling from the massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11 and created devastation on an unimaginable scale. The crisis has been compounded by damage to nuclear power plants that has resulted in large-scale evacuations. The humanitarian situation on the ground is difficult, with shortages of food, water, fuel and medical supplies, along with frigid temperatures and snow. Save the Children, which has worked in Japan since 1986, is estimating that at least 100,000 children have been affected by the disasters. There is also a huge population displacement, with estimates of some 350,000 people out of their communities, tens of thousands of whom are children. Over 2,100 evacuation centers have been established, but many lack running water and electricity for heat. In addition, with damage to nuclear power plants in the Fukushima Prefecture and reported releases of radiation into the environment, people from areas around several plants have been evacuated or ordered to remain indoors. Children in the hardest-hit areas are in need of basic supplies such as food and clean water. With concerns over nuclear safety, there is a risk that problems with supply lines could grow worse. In addition, initial assessments have confirmed that over 5,500 schools have been damaged and it is anticipated that the opening of schools for the new term on April 5 will be delayed.
With hundreds of thousands of displaced persons housed in temporary evacuation centers, there is the additional concern that expectant mothers will be extremely worried about where they might give birth. It will be important that the Japanese authorities monitor the health and welfare of expectant mothers and afford them appropriate care to ensure their needs are met. Save the Children’s Response: Our staff is working nonstop in the disaster zone to assess children’s needs and initiate child protection programs. We are also closely monitoring the situation of the nuclear plants and have developed a contingency plan if the situation worsens. March 21, Save the Children continues to identify partners, relief agencies, 2011 and authorities in and around the impact zone in order to assess the services available and to efficiently meet the needs of children and families.