Japan Update: Food Aid for Nursing Homes

Latest News:
3/31: Japan archbishop visits devastated Sendai, issues message to Anglican Communion (ENS)

March 29, 2011

More than two weeks ago, on March 11, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast near the Japanese town of Sendai, causing a tsunami that devastated large areas of the country’s northeast. The government’s official death toll from the disaster surpassed 11,000 on Tuesday, with more than 17,000 listed as missing.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continues to be a great concern, as radioactive water seeps out of damaged reactors and into groundwater. The official evacuation zone around the plant has increased from 12 to 19 miles, though the American embassy in Japan has recommended evacuation for those living within 50 miles – an area with a population of about 2 million people.

One of the greatest challenges over the past two weeks has been meeting food needs. With transportation infrastructure still heavily damaged and locally-produced food at risk of being contaminated by radiation from the nuclear plant, many families and institutions are facing difficulty.

In response to the need at 10 local nursing homes in the city of Iwaki, Onahama St. Timothy Church has been working with other local churches and NGOs to secure food for 400 elderly residents. According to Shinya Yawata, International Secretary of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK, the Anglican Communion in Japan), “The buildings [have] been damaged to different levels, but most of them have not been damaged very badly. Staff can still cook there if they can receive supplies of food. So ecumenical groups have started providing food to them as part of the church’s mission work for people in the surrounding community; elderly people in particular.”

Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting the initial response work of the NSKK in the two most severely-affected dioceses: Tohoku and Kita Kanto. In Tohoku, Bishop John Hiromichi Kato is running a relief center based at diocesan headquarters in Sendai. At the provincial level, Archbishop Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu is developing a response strategy with structures to organize volunteers and direct resources. The food ministry of St. Timothy’s is part of this overall relief work.

“Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting the NSKK as they continue to develop their response,” said Kirsten Laursen Muth, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Director for International Programs. “We and other Anglican agencies are awaiting the Church’s assessments regarding their needs and ongoing ways we can support their leadership.”