It is now over two and a half months since the earthquake. Just as the attention of the mass media is gradually fading, recovery activities, in many senses, are carrying on in the affected areas.
It is a month since the opening of make-shift town halls and health clinics, and construction of provisional housing is also slowly going ahead. As for education, some schools have begun classes again, and the number of students that can be seen walking around in school uniforms and school regulation sportswear has increased. These are students who, whenever I pass them in the corridor greet me cheerfully, students who tell me that they complete their homework assignments as best they can despite the fact that their textbooks were washed away. From witnessing these views of day to day life, I begin to feel that Ohtsuchi is slowly beginning to move again.
On the other hand, one thing that cannot be said to be putting itself back together is the ‘heart’ of the victims.
“My family members are still missing”, “Everyone in my immediate family died, so I am staying with relatives”, “I have finally been able to recover my loved ones remains, which has helped me come to terms with things a bit better”. There are many aspects to this – the heartache that comes with losing ones family, the enormity of the destruction, and the many who remain missing. There are others still, who tell of how their family relations were not perfect even before the tsunami hit, and are now at breaking point. It is clear that the tsunami shook people literally, but emotionally, too. As time goes on, there is a need to provide care that addresses the problems that families faced before the tsunami, as well as care for the psychological effects that have resulted since it struck. ‘Family’ is the unit used to describe many people as they draw together to begin their individual recoveries, and it performs the function of providing mutual, psychological support and stability as members help one another. For that reason, I think that caring for the ‘family’ is linked to supporting the groundwork needed for people to begin to move toward recovery, and that is why we continue providing support.
The Doctors of the World emotional and psychological care team is developing care for people in many different positions, ranging from children, young adults, the elderly and families to local teachers, evacuation center staff and local civil servants. However, we are concerned by the number of people who have still not been able to receive care despite their need for it. That is why one of our important roles is to increase awareness of our emotional and psychological care team and let people know that such help is available.
Nurse Mifuyu Akazaki