International help disaster and emergency lifeline
PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas (The Freeman) - October 9, 2015 - 10:00am

With so much disasters taking place and more expected to come with global warming and climate change, there is no more excuse for any country not to prepare adequately for disasters. Effective models are also available to enhance existing disaster management and resiliency. Protection of people and nature remains the most urgent priority.

Japan's disaster management system is one of the best in the world. Preparations have been in place for years all throughout this island country. Evacuation centers with adequate basic supplies and facilities, disaster drills at all levels, maximum multi-sectoral participation are part of their pre-disaster management policy. Then, when disasters strike, their disaster management system includes communication networks, immediate assistance to protect life and property, mobilization of service providers, among others. Post-disaster management policy includes measures for assisting disaster victims cope with their losses and afflictions and assisting towards reconstruction of lives and communities and moving on to a better future.

The recent floods in Joso and Tsukuba in Ibaraki- ken, Japan showed us up close and personal how this Japanese disaster management system works.

No one anticipated the floods but as soon as information about it was confirmed, local government units were quick to respond. The police did house to house campaign in the areas closest to the overflowing Kinugawa River, helicopters were deployed for days, evacuation centers went into full operational mode, assuring the victims safe roof over their heads, space, food and water supply for their temporary stay.

Individual and group volunteers used social media to share information about the location, situation, and needs of the victims. Embassies coordinated with national groups, including churches, in the affected areas. The goal was common: to save all from danger and to provide immediate assistance to affected individuals and families.

Within days, the call for assistance went beyond volunteers for evacuation areas, more gender and age appropriate donations (such as milk for infants, diapers including those for the elderly, pads for women) and temporary mats and blankets to volunteers to clean the houses of the affected, to usable second hand home appliances, to post-evacuation, return to home-type of assistance.

While there is still so much to do for post- disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction, the effective, collaborative, and quick multi-sectoral response and assistance for those affected deserve commendation and worth emulating in other communities, especially in our communities in the Philippines.

The post-disaster measures adopted by the Japanese local government units are also worth noting. Information was posted and circulated for all affected

Individuals to fill up forms about the kind and extent of damage they experienced. Those affected were also asked to report to the local government office for appropriate service and assistance. The victims could also apply for support for house and car damage!

Those who went to evacuation centers were properly registered and documented. Post-evacuation entitlements and services were easier to extend to them.

There were many foreigners, however, who did not go to evacuation centers but instead sought shelter and refuge with extended families or friends. Whether they are entitled as well to post-evacuation services is still being confirmed.

Many foreigners also lamented the language barrier and the absence of helpful translation at the start of, during, and after the floods. Hence, many foreigners missed being adequately assisted before, during, and after the disaster.

Inclusion of foreigners and migrants as among the vulnerable groups, their need to be informed and assisted has to be stressed for all disaster management policy and practice all throughout the world.

An international and multilingual HELP Lifeline, an assistance communication network within migrant host countries can be an important, decisive step to enhance existing disaster management systems. This international HELP lifeline can involve public and private collaboration, including the active engagement of migrants themselves as well as their respective sending countries.

The common goal is to save and protect lives of all people regardless of age, gender, class, and nationality. We strongly suggest the immediate implementation of such multi-lingual, multilevel, multilateral HELP Lifeline for emergencies and disasters.

cherryb_thefreeman@yahoo.com

AFFECTED ASSISTANCE CENTERS DISASTER DISASTERS EVACUATION IBARAKI JOSO AND TSUKUBA KINUGAWA RIVER MANAGEMENT POST
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