Japan: Recovery operation for missing persons in tsunami aftermath
On April 1 2011, Japan’s Self Defense Force and the US military launched a three-day, 25,000 personnel joint operation to recover the bodies of people still unaccounted for in the Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefecture coastal areas where over 16,000 people remain missing. Recovering bodies of the missing is seen as an important step to help the country move on. However, the operation does not include the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant where there are believed to be a significant number of bodies.
Three weeks after the 11 March earthquake, the combined number of people dead and unaccounted for is 28,000. Over 170,000 people are living in evacuation centres, and authorities are trying to consolidate the number of centres to make assistance more efficient and allow schools serving as evacuation centres to beginning functioning again in time for the academic year beginning in April. Fuel supplies, water availability and continuing harsh weather remain primary concerns.
NGOs and volunteers have begun to focus humanitarian assistance on those living outside evacuation centres and distribution networks. It is still unknown how many people are outside the centres, but the number is believed to be large especially as people in evacuation centres have begun to return to their damaged homes.
Hospitals providing emergency response services in the three most affected prefectures are gradually building back capacity, focusing on caring for people with disabilities and controlling the spread of infectious disease. Long term psychosocial support will also be needed for survivors, including emergency workers.
OCHA has officially ended its support role in-country to the Government of Japan for this emergency. Japan Platform and the Japan NGO Centre for International Cooperation will take the lead in information exchange and coordination of international NGOs with local partners.
The UN Secretary-General and some of the world's most famous celebrities expressed their solidarity to the people of Japan through a series of video messages. Click here to view the group message.