Global NGO Project HOPE Vows to Help Japan’s Long-term Recovery on 1st Anniversary of 2011 Disaster

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Project HOPE Adopts Japanese Town For Long-term Healing and Recovery

The waters have receded and the debris has been cleared, but U.S.-based global NGO Project HOPE is still in Japan a year after the tsunami disaster transfixed a horrified world.

Project HOPE, a global health education and humanitarian assistance organization, is helping to restore the devastated health care system in the coastal town of Yamada, treating the vulnerable elderly population and bolstering the nation's legendary spirit of self-reliance.

After a massive wall of water rolled in from the Pacific on March 11, 2011, Project HOPE deployed medical volunteers to help local and regional health authorities and health care professionals provide acute patient care. During the next twelve months, 43 HOPE volunteers deployed to Japan to assist thousands of patients requiring treatment for chronic and acute medical illnesses, including a large number of displaced elderly people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

After months of working with local governments and regional prefecture authorities, HOPE adopted the town of Yamada in the Iwate Prefecture to address the needs of the elderly. With support from Johnson & Johnson, HOPE will work in cooperation with the Primary Care Association of Japan (PCAT) to train local health care professionals and family members to better care for the elderly working. Also, the town will receive its first-ever GPS database of the town’s elder population.

Currently, HOPE has three medical volunteers working in the Kondo Clinic in Yamada to address these needs, and, in a rare agreement between a Japanese government authority and a foreign NGO, Project HOPE signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Governor of Iwate Prefecture and the Mayor of Yamada to further expand its vital work.

During the recovery period, HOPE sent Japanese native and American medical volunteers to assist individuals stranded, sick, orphaned or traumatized by the disaster. Many Japanese in the devastated areas had little or no access to health services as most of the services and providers were themselves destroyed, swept to sea or otherwise seriously disabled.

“I really wanted to help my country. I was born and raised in Japan and my family and friends are still there,” said Sonomi Kawasaki a HOPE volunteer and a registered nurse from Orange, California, who spent two weeks in the Miyagi Prefecture assisting local health care professionals to care for patients with chronic health needs.

More than 15,850 people were confirmed dead and at least 340,000 were displaced after the earthquake and tsunami destroyed cities and towns across northeastern Japan. Hospital and health care facilities were damaged or destroyed and thousands of people sought refuge in temporary shelters.

But despite lingering problems, Japan is bouncing back.

“The Japanese did more in two months to clean up every single affected town, city and village than we observed almost two years post-earthquake in Haiti. A lot still remains to be done in Japan, but they are simply a remarkable, self-reliant people,” said Frederick Gerber, head of Special Projects at Project HOPE.

Finding care for the elderly during the disaster presented a huge challenge to relief workers as it was hard to locate the aged population during the emergency, especially those who were bedridden, and those who used electrical devices for care, and with chronic and multiple medical problems. HOPE has vowed to address this challenge in cooperation with Yamada town officials.

“In Yamada, HOPE is planning to contribute medical imaging equipment to replace equipment lost in both of the town’s hospitals during the disaster,” said Fred Gerber.

HOPE has a vast array of expertise and legacy in dealing with medical needs of communities following a natural disaster. HOPE was involved in long-term relief efforts following the earthquakes in Haiti (2010), China’s Sichuan Province (2008) and Indonesia (2004). In fact, HOPE is still involved in disaster-related health education programs in Haiti, China and Indonesia.

About Project HOPE
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health crises, with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now conducts land-based medical training and health education programs in 35 countries across five continents.

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Geraldine Carroll
Project Hope
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