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Médecins du Monde (aka Doctors of the world), launches medical support activities in Kumamoto quake zone

– Implementation of mental health care activity for children and families –

世界の医療団、熊本地震被災地にて医療支援活動を開始 ニココロ熊本プロジェクト ~ 子どもたちの見まもり活動~
April 28, 2016, Tokyo —In response to the multiple earthquakes that struck Kumamoto Prefecture from April 14th. Médecins du Monde has conducted a survey mission (starting April 19th) in order to assess the needs of medical support in the disaster area. As of today, April 28th we will begin medical support activities in Nishihara-village and Minami-Aso village of Kumamoto prefecture where the mental health support is needed.

Two weeks after the foreshock, aftershocks are still occurring in the field, thus the entire damage situation is not possible to grasp fully as of today. In addition, there are regional disparities in infrastructure restoration. Today, there are close 40,000 people displaced in shelters (as of April 27, Kumamoto Prefecture Disaster Control Measures Headquarters announcement).

In disaster medical care jargon we are now reaching the subacute phase, past the emergency response, mental health care assistance is needed in responding to the mental burden caused by stress and prolonged evacuation life due to the disaster.

In coordination with each institution such as support groups, municipality offices, and healthcare facilities of the region, and also in the light of survey results on the needs of medical support, the following support project will be conducted.

Assistance for children and their families

Shaking caused by earthquakes, darkness due to power outage, repeated aftershocks, these repeated occurrences bring more fear and trauma, children do not have the ability to deal with especially the youngest ones, it is impossible for them to express their experience with words and could lead to more deeply rooted emotional issues, mental problems are often overlooked.

In addition, the mental burden that comes from living in shelters (with large number of people, stranger for most) can be even heavier on children than on adults. Need for community and parental care is higher than usual. For instance, as the adults are busy helping around to sort things out they do not give enough psychological attention to their little ones who can feel left out and even more in distress. To minimize the stress and psychological impact on children and their families, mental health care support (medium to long term) has been determined as necessary.

Based on the survey, Nishihara village and Minami Aso village are in urgent need of support, with the aim to reduce the impact on the medium and long-term mental health caused by the disaster and evacuation life, children will be provided a playground where they can play freely. We dispatch pediatricians and psychiatrists and the local child mental health specialist actors who will be assisting and supervising children and families. Moreover, sharing information in cooperation with regional health care facilities, local governments and other actors we will make the appropriate medical support for sub-acute phase and later.

“In addition to medium and long-term assistance emergency medical support activities worldwide, Médecins du Monde had to face two similar situations in Japan in the past 20 years: the Great Hanshin Awaji (Kobe) earthquake and the more recent Great East Japan earthquake where mental health care support is still implemented nowadays. Médecins du Monde has gained in proficiency through achievements of its assistance programs. Following the past disaster response programs, Médecins du Monde has cultivated mental health care support expertise and know-how, we want to deliver the appropriate mental health care support to all victims in the region” says Médecins du Monde Japon President, Gaël Austin.

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