Eileen Burke 203.221.4233 (W), 203.216.0718 (M)
Lane Hartill 202.640.6608 (W), 202.294.9700 (M)
SENDAI, Japan (March 17, 2011) — As relief efforts in Japan continue to be hampered by the ongoing nuclear crisis, shortages of essential goods, including food, water, cooking fuel and clothing could put thousands of children displaced by last week’s devastating earthquake at risk.
Stephen McDonald, Save the Children’s team leader in Sendai, said: “We are seeing children living in extremely difficult circumstances as a result of the earthquake and its associated problems. Fuel is in short supply, making it difficult to move goods around the country, and we fear there are still communities where basic items are not getting through.”
On Wednesday, Save the Children carried out an exploratory mission to Ishinomaki, Nobiru and Onagawa north of Sendai and found children living in desperate conditions.
“We travelled for ten hours in snow, sleet, rain and sludge,” said Ian Woolverton, who led the mission. “There were some terrible scenes. In some places like Onagawa, there was nothing left. In other places like Ishinomaki, we found children in evacuation centers huddled around kerosene lamps.”
In Tokyo, lines have developed outside fuel stations where a 2.5 gallon limit per person has been introduced. The fuel shortages are being compounded by the ongoing uncertainty over safety at the Fukushima nuclear power station, where several explosions have occurred, sending radioactive material into the atmosphere.
McDonald said: “The situation in Fukushima is certainly having an impact on relief efforts further north. The evacuation around the plant has created a new wave of displaced people, and concerns over safety are making it difficult to deploy staff to the affected area.”
Save the Children has spoken to children displaced by the earthquake who are terrified of what might happen if the situation at Fukushima deteriorates.
At an evacuation center not far from Sendai, 8-year-old Kazuki Seto told staff: “We are really worried about the nuclear power plants. We are very afraid of nuclear radiation. That's why we don't play outside."
Yasu Hiro, 10, said: “We know about the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and we are very scared. It makes us really worry. If it explodes it is going to be a tremendous ordeal."
Save the Children teams are in Sendai to help children affected by the earthquake and tsunami, and are in the process of setting up child-friendly spaces.
These are protective play areas that help relieve the anxiety faced by children and allow them to spend time with other children and play while being supervised by responsible adults.
The play areas also give parents much needed time that they can dedicate to finding food sources, work, accommodation and locating other friends and family.
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