寄付・募金・ボランティアのセーブ・ザ・チルドレン・ジャパン

Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami Emergency response and recovery program

Children in Tohoku exchange opinions with Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for Disaster Risk Reduction!

It’s been almost four years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. On August 29, 2015, seven child representatives from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures met Ms. Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Head of UNISDR. This marks the fifth meeting between child representatives and Ms. Wahlström after those in July 2012, October 2012, February 2013, and October 2013. The children shared their personal experiences, hoping to improve global disaster risk reduction efforts. Let’s find out what messages they conveyed.

 

■Children Spent the Last Four Years Engaging in Recovery and Disaster Risk Reduction Efforts since 3.11■

Representatives are selected from among the members of the Children’s Community Building Clubs in Yamada Town, Rikuzentakata City, or Ishinomaki City, or attendees of the preparatory workshops. They have been engaging in the recovery and disaster risk reduction efforts since immediately after 3.11. Except for one representative who participated in the World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction in July 2012, it was their first time meeting Ms. Wahlström.

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After brief self-introductions, child representatives presented what the Children’s Community Building Clubs have been doing and how it has changed their communities and the club members. Members of the Children’s Community Clubs in Yamada Town, Rikuzentakata City, and Ishinomaki City talked about the “Yamada Children’s Communication Center project” (tentative name), in which members have worked closely with both the community and the government, the “Susume Takatakko” projects where members have exchanged opinions with policy makers or transmitted information on the “here and now” of Rikuzentakata City, and the “Ishinomaki City Children’s Center,” that was designed and developed by the children.

 

After the presentations, Ms. Wahlström told them, “Your achievements are amazing. They are literally your victory. I remember you all were saying that the grownups wouldn’t listen to you when I met you back in July 2012. I see you showed improvement by taking time to tackle the issue. You gained understanding of the local communities.”

 

 

■Children’s Individual Messages for Better Global Disaster Risk Reduction Efforts■

Towards the end of the meeting, the 37 children of Tohoku presented an “Opinion Paper” which they submitted to the Reconstruction Agency on August 3, 2011. With this message that they conveyed what was on their minds to the government, each member also shared their own messages to the world based on their personal experiences of 3.11.

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“I would like to share the lessons learned with the world. Even though we did have regular emergency drills before 3.11, they were only for earthquakes and we were nowhere near prepared for a big tsunami like that. Not only the children, but also the adults did not know where to go and what to do, and because of that, we had a large number of casualties. Therefore, we need to reach out to many people and teach them that it is important to evacuate right away and not to come back once a tsunami warning is issued. Basic knowledge like this will save a lot of lives.” (High School Junior, Female, Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)

 

“To prevent damage from a disaster, the young and seniors should stay in touch regularly so that they can evacuate together in times of emergency. While community recovery efforts have been progressing, those who lost their loved ones are still having a hard time getting over their loss. I think it is a good idea to bring professionals who can support them. I believe that community recovery cannot be done without members’ psychological recovery.” (9th Grader, Female, Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture)

 

“We had to evacuate without knowing what the nuclear plant accident meant, which threw us into a state of panic. Therefore, I believe we all should always be informed of what is going on at least in our own community. Also, I want people to come to Fukushima or talk to those who live in Fukushima before making any judgment, since residents of Fukushima have been hit hard by rumors. I think everybody needs to be given accurate information.” (High School Senior, Female, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture)

 

“I live in the town right next to Onagawa nuclear power plant. I knew about it as a fact, but I never thought about its impact on us, like what happens to it if an earthquake hits or if radiation starts to leak. I learned from 3.11 how it could damage our lives to this extent. That is why I think we need to talk more about the nuclear plants and to join forces in order to create alternative energy that is safe.” (9th Grader, Female, Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture)

 

“I think that the community members’ voices need to be heard more and that we need to have talks with the adults regarding community building and disaster risk reduction on even ground and work together to create something. We can always give each other different perspectives. Through participating in disaster risk prevention efforts, we can take it more seriously, which raises our awareness.” (High School Sophomore, Female, Yamada Town, Iwate Prefecture)

 

“We weren’t prepared for 3.11 as it hit us unexpectedly. Now that I participate in the Children’s Community Building Club, I am aware of the recovery process. I even share my ideas to make our community better. Thus, I think talking is important. It will help the recovery process if schools provide opportunities where students can exchange opinions on the recovery and disaster risk reduction like our club, or where children and adults talk together when something happens.” (7th Grader, Male, Yamada Town, Iwate Prefecture)

 

“A large number of children are unable to participate in any sort of recovery effort although they do want to, due to the fact that there are no such opportunities available to them. It would be great if there were events where children could take part in the recovery process. Since we lost most of our community, we need to build a new, better community from scratch. We should ask for opinions from community members, especially those who lost their loved ones, to create a new community in a convincing manner.” (8th Grader, Female, Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture)

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“I see you all value not only the physical recovery of your community but also social and psychological recovery. That is why you think it is important for you to have access to information and to participate in the recovery process,” Ms. Wahlström said. She added, “I am sure your achievements encourage the children all over the world. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, agreed upon during the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in March 2015, emphasizes ‘building back better’ as one of its cores. There have not been many actual examples of building a better community as a part of the recovery process so far, so I hope your case becomes a good example to raise public awareness. Therefore, I would like you to continue transmitting your activities to the world while we share them on our homepage of UNISDR.”

 

 

Children Continue Working Towards Better Recovery and Disaster Risk Reduction Efforts

In the meeting, Ms. Wahlström asked the children what they want to be in the future. Children answered passionately:

“I want to study community invigoration in college and become involved in community building and disaster risk reduction efforts in my community after college.”

“I would like to be an agricultural extension specialist. I want to help improving rice fields while keeping close communication with people. My goal is to help the revitalization of local agriculture while providing mental health care for the farmers.”

 

While working towards better community building and disaster risk reduction efforts, together with community members, children find their dreams. Please check back with us later as we are going to post the children’s feedback from the meeting and upload a video!