On the evening of April 14, 2016, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck the island of Kyushi. A second, larger 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit the island less than 48 hours later on April 16. At least 49 people perished as a result of the earthquake, however the largest impact has been on access to shelter and infrastructure, with at least 69,000 people initially displaced, more than 129,000 households without power, and at least 385,000 people without access to water.
As of May 9, 2016, seismic activity continues with more than 1,170 aftershocks recorded since the first significant earthquake on April 17; 1,037 aftershocks have been recorded in the hardest-hit prefectures of Kumamoto and Oita alone. Government reports indicate more than 2,400 houses have been destroyed, with another 20,000 damaged. In Kumamoto city, officials still struggle to meet housing needs, and there are continued reports of evacuees in the hardest-hit areas sleeping and living in their cars. As of May 4, some 19,000 people still remain in 380 evacuation centers; many others remain displaced, living with families and friends because their homes are uninhabitable. According to local reports, Kumamoto authorities intend to open 18 new evacuation shelters that are better equipped than existing facilities. These new centers will also facilitate the reopening of schools, many of which remain closed as they are serving as evacuation centers.
International Medical Corps Emergency Response Team continues to support the Government of Japan and local officials in responding to the ongoing needs from this crisis, filling gaps and providing services to families and individuals in evacuation centers, including:
- Providing elderly care: Teams have found that elderly evacuees, especially those with limited mobility, are reluctant to use existing hygiene services because they feel they are inadequate or difficult to access. In response, International Medical Corps has begun to provide regular occupational and physical therapy to elderly residents of the centers, including assistance with bathing.
- Provision of hygiene services: International Medical Corps has provided additional latrines to overcrowded evacuation centers, providing additional sanitary facilities to benefit up to 3,300 evacuees living in those centers.
- Distribution of hygiene supplies: Teams have distributed hygiene supplies to help individuals and families stay healthy while displaced. To date, 706 personal hygiene kits have been distributed.
- Psychological First Aid Training: To support recovery efforts and provide care for those affected, International Medical Corps provided a two-day psychological first aid training for 15 local staff members who have regular contact with survivors, both in person and via phone counselling services. As a result of the quakes, survivors may suffer with stress-related problems, which can contribute to longer term mental health concerns, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychological first aid training is a non-intrusive way of providing psycho-social support. It teaches doing no harm; normal reactions to stress and loss; listening in a supportive way; strengthening positive coping strategies; referrals to needed services; and staff self-care. Providing these trainings not only meets emergency needs, but builds the long-term capacity of local staff to deliver these services in the future.
Moving forward, International Medical Corps will continue to support the Japanese government in its response efforts; the team is now assessing the potential for additional mental health training and nutrition support, especially for elderly evacuees. In addition, IMC will be working with local partners to provide support, capacity and technical advice for recovery efforts.