Having established the necessary supply chain and delivered the first batch of supplies at the designated supply collection centre near Iwate prefecture, Mercy Relief (MR) team today arrived at the devastated coastal towns of Kamaichi City in Iwate where mountains of debris still linger.  Iwate is the second worst-hit prefecture after Miyagi.

More than 45,000 people in Iwate have been displaced and are staying at over 350 evacuation centres.  The centres are kept very tidy and clean.  Amazingly, despite the ongoing crisis, the evacuees remain disciplined in practising waste sorting.

Food is sufficient, but are limited to instant noodles, biscuits and cakes.  With Tokyo ordering the suspension of exports of produce such as milk and certain vegetables from the regions around the nuclear plants in Fukushima, the issue of food shortage has become a growing concern.  Generally, relief supplies have been delivered in timely and orderly fashion to most evacuation centres except those in more remote areas where access is challenging.  Several areas are still cut off from aid due to damaged roads and obstructing debris. Healthcare has been well-addressed as medical personnel from other unaffected prefectures tirelessly conduct daily mobile clinics to serve all the centres.

The MR team walked the Ground Zero at Iwate and witnessed the sheer impact of the tsunami that had washed ashore boats and fishes, and flinging cars onto homes.  Many of the survivors shared that they hope life would be back to normal again soon but they bear no such illusions as they realised that that would be almost impossible due to the scale of  devastation.  Clearing works by the military, to allow for early reconstruction of homes, are making progress albeit slow due to the lack of heavy equipment.

After delivering the second batch of supplies at an Iwate supply centre, the MR team stopped over at another evacuation centre to distribute fun packs comprising toys and activity materials to the children to occupy their time and take their minds off the trauma.  In addition, although there was sufficient supply of standard face masks, the team added colour to the children, and smiles to their parents, by providing children face masks decorated with cartoon characters.

(The waves surged around 1 kilometer inland at Iwate…

… carrying the contents of the ocean.)

(2nd batch of supplies – Handing over at a supply collection centre.)

(Fun time – Distributing activity packs and toys at an evacuation centre.)

(Waste sorting – Disciplined despite disaster-struck.)

MR continues to procure relief items locally from the supply and logistics chain that it has established to address the changing needs on the ground, with the next batch scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday.

For the current relief operations, MR had considered a two-pronged approach to ensure timely and appropriate support in terms of delivery of supplies to the affected areas.  This was drawn from its previous responses in complex humanitarian crises especially from the 2004 tsunami in Aceh and the Wenchuan earthquake and Cyclone Nargis of 2008.  The first option was to send supplies from Singapore, and the second was to procure supplies from local suppliers in Japan.  The decision was to embark on the second option such as to avoid tailbacks at the ports of entry.

MR Chief Executive Hassan Ahmad shared, “Being the conduit of our donors’ good intentions, it is critical that we are personally here to understand the relief system and actual operations on the ground for us to be effectively relevant and useful, without which, we would be left with only assumptions which could lead to wastage of resources including time and manpower.  Working with the local authorities, NGOs, as well as the business community here, has provided us with the ground intelligence and network to help us with our decisions and operations”.

MR is currently serving the affected areas which are a safe distance outside the radiation-hazard zone (officially 30km radius of the nuclear reactors’ location).  In order to facilitate and ensure the team’s safety and quick evacuation, if necessary, a dedicated unit at the MR Headquarters in Singapore is monitoring the radiation alerts and advice from the Japanese Government and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Fundraising Efforts in Singapore –Day 8

Donations received : S$722,000

Members of the Singapore Soka Association (SSA) have come forward to donate for the victims.  To date, SSA has collected $432,000 and will continue to receive donations until end of March.  The current amount collected was raised within the first week of the disaster.  An initial amount of SGD200,000 was presented to MR today to support MR’s ongoing aid efforts in Japan.  Receiving the cheque from SSA General Director Ong Bon Chai at the SSA HQ was MR Advisor, Speaker of Parliament Abdullah Tarmugi.

Mr Ong shared that, “We are deeply saddened by the calamities that have rocked Japan and the lives lost as a result.  We share the grief of the Japanese people.  The donations are SSA members’ humble contribution to the relief efforts”.

Over at the Defence Science Organisation National Laboratories, MR donation cans were passed around amongst its staff, collecting $16,350 over 3 days.

Donations from the public will be used to address the most pressing basic needs including food, water, blankets and other essential which will be procured on the ground for now.

About Mercy Relief

Mercy Relief is a Singaporean humanitarian organisation which engages in both disaster relief and sustainable development programmes. It was established in 2003 as an independent non-governmental humanitarian charity responding to the human tragedies in Asia. Mercy Relief’s aid programme focuses on providing timely and effective assistance to disaster-stricken communities and has maintained the delivery of emergency aid within 72 hours from the point of appeal for assistance.  

In the past 12 years, Mercy Relief has disbursed over S$32 million in aid across 40 disaster relief and 53 sustainable development initiatives. Mercy Relief has impacted an aggregate of 2 million lives in 24 countries and areas, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, DPR Korea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal,  Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen.

For more information, you may call us at 6514 6322 or email corporateaffairs@mercyrelief.org