As Japan continues to grapple with a rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis following Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami – as well as the developing nuclear situation – the Japanese Red Cross Society is offering medical and psychosocial care for increasing numbers of survivors and evacuees.
Search and rescue workers are now discovering increasing numbers of bodies in areas that have previously been hard to reach because of ongoing tsunami alerts. And the number of missing is adding to the fear that the death toll could reach 10,000 or more.
“I have never seen anything as bad as this before. It defies belief,” said Tadateru Konoé, President of the Japanese Red Cross Society and the IFRC, who has just returned from a visit to Iwate prefecture in north-eastern Japan, one of the worst-hit areas.
There are now more than 430,000 people housed in some 2,500 evacuation centres, mostly in schools and other public buildings. In addition, Red Cross medical teams are reporting many cases of people arriving at hospitals suffering from hypothermia and at risk of pneumonia. Many people are suffering the effects of having swallowed contaminated water during the tsunami.
At present, 85 medical teams are operating out of hospitals and mobile clinics treating survivors. Each team includes a trained psychosocial nurse, who allows survivors to voice their grief and anxieties, as well discuss practical concerns. The Japanese Red Cross has 2,400 trained psychosocial nurses, and an eight-member specialist psychosocial team has just returned from a mission in New Zealand, where they were helping survivors of the Christchurch earthquake. They had no idea their services would be so badly needed at home, so suddenly.
As concerns mount about radiation leaks from nuclear power plants in Fukushima prefecture, Red Cross staff and volunteers are playing a key role in caring for the thousands of people evacuated from the 20-kilometre exclusion zone surrounding the affected plants. Residents within a 30 kilometer zone have now been advised to stay indoors due to the risk of radiation exposure. The latest developments will clearly make the humanitarian situation more complex although the full implications have yet to become clear.
With the support of government authorities, the Japanese Red Cross is monitoring the situation in hospitals close to the exclusion zone, in case radiation levels rise and pose a risk to patients.
For those who would like real-time updates of activities on the ground, please follow the IFRC’s official twitter feed: twitter.com/Federation.
For further information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Sayaka Matsumoto, public relations and media officer, Japanese Red Cross Society
Mobile: +81 90 6128 9100
Patrick Fuller, communications manager, Asia Pacific, IFRC
Mobile: +81 90 9820 8697
Francis Markus, communications delegate, East Asia, IFRC
Mobile: +81 80 3713 7324
In Kuala Lumpur
Stephen Ryan, communications officer, Asia Pacific, IFRC
Mobile: +60 12 305 2811
Reeni Amin Chua, communications officer, Asia Pacific, IFRC
Mobile: +60 19 274 4968
Paul Conneally, manager, media and public communication unit, IFRC
Mobile: +41 79 308 9809
Sadia Kaenzig, senior officer, communications, IFRC
Tel.: +41 22 730 4455
Interviews can be arranged in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Japanese Portuguese and Spanish. Other languages may be available on request.