It has been almost four and a half years since Japan was struck by the massive earthquake and tsunami that triggered the partial meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
While the reconstruction process has advanced significantly in the area surrounding the crippled nuclear power plant, and many evacuees have now returned to their homes, the road to recovery remains a long one for many people still living in temporary shelters.
Last Monday, as part of his trip to Switzerland to present an update on the prefecture’s recovery efforts, the Governor of Fukushima, Mr Masao Uchibori, met Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to express his appreciation for the organization’s support, and to discuss its work on nuclear and radiological preparedness.
In the aftermath of the 2011 triple disaster, the IFRC raised over $600 million US dollars, helping the Japanese Red Cross Society to play a critical role in assisting the injured, providing psychosocial support, supplying household appliances for families in temporary shelters, establishing safe spaces for children and community centres, and distributing radiation monitoring equipment to people living in areas that may have been contaminated.
“The assistance that our prefecture received from the Red Cross has been a great moral boost for us,” said Mr Uchibori. “I would like to give formal thanks on behalf of all the people of Fukushima.”
Mr Uchibori said many communities are still suffering; families remain in temporary housing, unable to return to their neighbourhoods, and may have to decide about where they rebuild their lives. “There is no right answer. There are just many answers,” he said. “In such situations, the advice and support that we receive from international organizations such as the IFRC can help heal divisions.”
The Secretary General paid tribute to the leadership of the Fukushima prefecture and the affected communities for their resilience, praising the role of the the Japanese Red Cross Society in the process of reconstruction. “To reconstruct means to heal, to reconcile, to rebuild the trust and the dignity that was eroded by the displacement,” said Mr Sy.
“Once again, we pledge our support to the communities, the country’s leadership and the Japanese Red Cross Society to keep this process going.”
Learning the lessons of Fukushima
Mr Sy, who visited Fukushima last October, said the IFRC was determined to understand and act on the lessons learned from the Fukushima response. In collaboration with the Japanese Red Cross Society, the organization has been working on a set of guidelines for Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to prepare better for nuclear and radiological accidents. These will soon be finalized and will inform discussions at the IFRC General Assembly in December.
“The international community should never forget Fukushima, and the consequences that still echo today. We will continue to raise awareness about the risks of nuclear disasters and how we can best prepare for them should similar incidents happen again,” said Mr Sy.