.- Almost three months after the devastating earthquake in Japan, the Catholic relief agency Caritas has launched a new emergency program to provide disaster survivors food, counseling and help in finding employment.
About 24,000 people died from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Over 370,000 houses and buildings were destroyed.
“Life is not easy for people evacuated from their houses,” said Fr. Daisuke Narui secretary general of Caritas Japan. “Our first priority is to make sure our activities last and we are there for the earthquake survivors for many years to come.”
The new program aims to reach 19,000 people through September at a cost of $3.7 million, Caritas reports.
The program will provide blankets and health products, give mental health assessments on the affected community, and support those whose businesses and jobs are affected.
The initial phase will be followed by a three to five-year recovery and rehabilitation project.
While the government of Japan has responded effectively to the needs, Caritas proposes to fill some gaps in relief coverage which still exist.
Immediately after the disaster, Caritas Japan sent a team to Sendai, one of the worst-affected areas. They assessed damage and provided material and psychological support to victims.
Fr. Narui said that over 1,100 volunteers have come to Caritas from all over Japan.
“We host them in parishes and then we send them to people’s houses and to the public shelters to help people,” he reported.
He added that Caritas has received many e-mails and letters from all over the world.
“They send us money and they pray for us. It’s very encouraging to receive such support and we give out the letters to the earthquake-affected people.”
The earthquake significantly damaged three nuclear reactors at the Fukishima power complex, releasing radiation and forcing the evacuation of about 80,000 people. The country is now running only 19 of its 54 reactors, raising the risk of major power shortages.