EQ/Tsunami Press Release

With healthcare systems left in crisis by Japan’s 11 March earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) will provide vital medical infrastructure in one of the worst hit north-eastern areas, until damaged state services can recover.

A 100-million US dollar intervention will include the building of a temporary hospital and an emergency medical centre, the strengthening of specialist care, social welfare and support to the elderly.

The move was confirmed as Red Cross and Red Crescent partner societies from around the world gathered in Japan this week for a three-day conference to review the response to the disaster so far and discuss a longer-term plan of action.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo today (Wednesday), Tadateru Konoe, President of both the JRCS and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), described the restoration of health services as one of the greatest challenges to emerge from the disaster. Many hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and doctors’ surgeries had been destroyed, he said, and in places health and care systems had simply broken down. “State plans to rebuild are in place,” he commented, “but they will take years to implement and in the meantime we will do all we can to bridge significant gaps.”

In Miyagi prefecture, only 40 of the 70 medical institutions that the town of Ishinomaki had prior to the disaster, are still working. One of those destroyed was the 200-bed Municipal Hospital which was a hub of secondary medical care. The Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital – a centre of specialist tertiary care – is now the only functioning hospital in the municipality, and today is obliged to offer every level of service, primary and secondary as well.

Exacerbating the situation, health care in Miyagi and the two other worst-hit prefectures of Iwate and Fukushima, was troubled even before the disaster, due to shortages of both full-time doctors and institutions.

As well as supporting relief activity, further funding from Red Cross and Red Crescent partners will improve living conditions for survivors in evacuation centres and in temporary housing. Already a package of electrical appliances is being provided to people moving into an eventual 72,000 temporary prefabricated homes being built by the government. The package will benefit upwards of 288,000 people at an estimated cost of 203 million US dollars.

For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Japan:
- John Sparrow, communications delegate, IFRC.
Mobile: +81 80 3713 7324. E-mail : john.sparrow@ifrc.org
- Michael Gillies Smith, communications delegate, IFRC.
Mobile: +81 90 9820 8697. E-mail: mgilliessmith@redcross.org.au
- Sayaka Matsumoto, public relations and media officer, Japanese Red Cross Society
Mobile: +81 90 6128 9100. E-mail: s-matsumoto@jrc.or.jp
In Kuala Lumpur:
- Patrick Fuller, communications manager Asia Pacific, IFRC.
Mobile +60 122 308 451 E-mail patrick.fuller@ifrc.org
In Geneva:
- Paul Conneally, head of media and public communications, IFRC.
Mobile: +41 793089809 E-mail: paul.conneally@ifrc.org