IFRC Secretary General visits Fukushima communities to see the vital work of the Japanese Red Cross Society

Publié: 4 novembre 2014 22:46 CET

By Linda Low, IFRC

Community, safety, respect, dignity. These were the recurring themes encountered by Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on his first official visit to Japan. Mr Sy met with communities affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in 2011, government officials, and the Japanese Red Cross Society. The main purpose of Mr Sy’s mission was to attend a meeting on nuclear emergency preparedness with representatives from 17 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies which sought new way to prepare for technological disasters.

It has been over three years since the nuclear disaster devastated this prefecture, but families evacuated from areas around the Fukushima Daiichi power plant are still not able to return home. In Namie town, Mr Sy met with families living in the shadow of the catastrophe, who are trying to carry on with their normal lives, albeit in challenging circumstances. “Imagine not being able to eat food from your own garden,” said one resident. To ensure they are safe, residents have grown used to scanning vegetables. They are likely to be doing this for many years while the decontamination process continues.

The disaster – and subsequent evacuation – severely affected communities and the local economy, so temporary housing and livelihoods support were a priority for local authorities. Meanwhile programmes which offer support for elderly residents, community activities and psychosocial support are also being provided by the Red Cross.

In Tokyo, Mr. Sy saw how the Japanese Red Cross Society provides assisted living programmes for the elderly which offer both freedom and, where necessary, support. One resident invited Mr. Sy into her home, clearly proud of the neat and tidy space. “This is the dignity we can give those who have lost their homes,” said Mr Sy.

In meetings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japan International Cooperation Agency, Mr Sy stressed the need for effective cooperation in development and disaster preparedness, and the ways in which these elements can be combined. Preparations for the 2015 World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai were highlighted, with the agreement that a common agenda could be created to advocate for increased government investment in disaster risk reduction.

At the end of the week, Mr Sy met with volunteers and staff from the Japanese Red Cross Society. “Because you are here, I know you are motivated,” he said. “I know that you care. If you see injustice, you will feel it. You will ask more questions. That is why it is so important as a community to talk to each other, listen to each other and support one another.”

This sense of community, he said, was evident right through the organisation. “I came here to know the Japanese Red Cross better and generate ideas for collaboration, not only in times of emergency, but also in service delivery.

“In all of my discussions this week, with President Konoé and Red Cross staff, with volunteers, in communities, and with external partners, our views have converged. We all want to build safer communities; now we must make concrete plans for action together.”