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Crucial Help for Families in Japan’s Disaster Zone

  • June 3, 2011

AmeriCares Expands Programs for Vulnerable Populations at Risk

As the world spotlight on Japan’s disaster recovery fades, AmeriCares expands its relief programs to reach more survivors each day. To meet the particularly urgent needs for medical and humanitarian aid for pregnant women, nursing mothers, newborns, and the elderly, AmeriCares is collaborating with government agencies and local NGOs in the affected region of Tohoku to help these especially vulnerable populations. The Elderly: Japan’s Largest Orphan PopulationBefore the disasters, Tohoku communities struggled with a shortage of health care providers for elderly residents — a segment representing 60 percent of the area’s population. In the aftermath, the number of elderly residents left behind has risen drastically with the loss of family caregivers who either perished or moved away. AmeriCares is working with local agencies and organizations to help in the development of a comprehensive plan to address primary health care, nutrition, and mental health needs for Japan’s elderly. Help for Expectant and New Mothers, Babies, and the Elderly

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon,

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon, www.Alertnet.orgA woman, who is eight months pregnant, is tested for possible nuclear radiation exposure at an evacuation center in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture.

Tammy Allen with Drs. Yoshida and Hayashi, who recently received AmeriCares donated stethoscopes.

 Tammy Allen with Drs. Yoshida and Hayashi, who recently received AmeriCares donated stethoscopes.With support from AmeriCares, obstetrician Dr. Honami Yoshida dispatched outreach staff from her Tokyo-based Primary Care Association (PCAT), equipped with sonogram machines and supplies to deliver crucial health care services and support to mothers-to-be,  new moms, babies, and elderly survivors in the impact zone.The outreach staff identified target groups living in Tohoku’s shelters, evacuation camps, damaged and unsafe homes, remote residences – and even in their own cars. More than 100 families and elderly survivors in need of special care were rescued and brought to health care homes, where they received high-quality medical attention and nursing support.  Pregnant women who remained in community shelters are given prenatal checkups by traveling PCAT staff, who have arranged for babies to be delivered at the nearby Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital. Dr. Yoshida reports two very alarming findings among women in the impact area:

  • Postpartum depression is rampant.  Depression is diagnosed when a person registers above 10 on the internationally-recognized EPDS scale; patients in the disaster-affected towns have registered shockingly high 15s and 16s –- levels Dr. Yoshida has not seen in her clinical care history. 
  • Only 30 percent of new moms breastfeed, due to stress and difficulty living in a shelter, compared to 80 percent of the Japanese population.  

To promote breastfeeding and its benefits for newborn and maternal health, AmeriCares and PCAT are working together to provide nutrition, emotional support, shelter, and privacy to help new moms recover and resume breastfeeding. For women still unable to nurse, PCAT provides infant formula. AmeriCares and PCAT will continue this crucial partnership to deliver health care and support for three generations of Japan’s disaster-affected population –- from its oldest patients to the newest generation born in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.Read MoreDonate Now