Local Social Services to Support Wide-Area Evacuees Following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal 5A G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Shun HARADA, Rikkyo University, Japan
Makoto NISHIKIDO, Hosei University, Japan
Since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster in 2011, more than 50,000 people have evacuated outside disaster-stricken prefectures and dispersed throughout Japan. Many evacuees are living in unstable situations, wavering between returning to their hometown or settling down in new places; however, the Japanese government has not taken radical measures to improve the situations of evacuees. To help them avoid poverty and isolation, local social services in receiving communities have developed support mechanisms.

This paper examines how local social services are organized and implemented to cope with wide-area evacuation, based on surveys in Saitama prefecture, which has received 5,000 evacuees to date. We conducted participant observation and interviews and questionnaire surveys since 2011 to evacuees, support groups, and local governments.

Immediately after the disasters, local governments opened public facilities as emergency shelters, in which local non-profit organizations (NPOs) and volunteers gathered to supply living necessities and aid the evacuees. In the first few months, municipalities began to provide temporary housing for evacuees. Some local governments also developed policies such as exemption from water charges. NPOs began to hold gatherings and publish informational magazines for evacuees. Besides, door-to-door visiting activities are now being established in an effort to grasp each evacuee’s needs, which were planned by NPOs in Saitama and municipalities in Fukushima.

In general, these local social services have been implemented to cover as many evacuees as possible; however, evacuees’ situations are becoming more diversified depending on occupation, family structure, and other factors. The most serious difference among the evacuees is whether they were “forced evacuees” from the Evacuation Order Zone in Fukushima, “voluntary evacuees” outside the zone, or victims of the tsunami. Local governments and NPOs have concerns about how long they should continue these services and how much they should invest.