Japan Emergency Update: UMCOR Responds

Date Posted: 3/17/2011

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has partnered with the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ) and first-responder GlobalMedic to bring immediate relief to communities in Japan affected by last week’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami.


A grant to the UCCJ will help the church respond to the most pressing humanitarian needs in the wake of the crisis, including clean drinking water, food, basic cooking and eating supplies, clothing, and fuel (mainly for heating).


In addition to the earthquake and tsunami and the uncertainty provoked by possible radiation poisoning from damaged nuclear reactors, it is still winter in Japan and the weather is bitterly cold and windy, and snow is falling in the devastated northern part of the country.


News sources indicate that some 400,000 people are hunkering down against the cold in makeshift shelters and evacuation centers, where they have been congregating since the crisis began last Friday, March 11. Water, food, and fuel are in short supply.

UMCOR is also working with first-responder partner GlobalMedic, which has offered three services to the government of Japan: deploy a rescue team with specialized dog units; use of an inflatable field hospital; and distribution of water purification units to the region.


Should the government indicate that it has covered these needs, GlobalMedic will work with Peace Winds Japan, a local nongovernmental organization, to distribute blankets, food, and water among earthquake and tsunami survivors.


Prayers and Solidarity

The urgency of responding to these basic needs was underscored by Global Ministries missionaries Jonathan and Satomi McCurley, who currently serve at the Asian Rural Institute, a training center for rural leaders in northern Japan.


In a blog, Jonathan McCurley asked for continued prayers for the people of Japan. “Right now, we are getting reports that some people are not able to find food and water; pray that those who are in need will be supplied,” he wrote.


“Also, pray for the cities, as people are struggling to buy basic necessities and are having to adjust to life with continual blackouts,” he added, alluding to the interruptions in energy supply since the disaster. Rolling blackouts are expected to continue at least through April.


Today, the Mission Board of The United Methodist Church in Germany announced it will donate 10,000 Euros (about US $14,000) to Japan relief and recovery through UMCOR. A new UMCOR advance, Japan Emergency Advance #3021317, was created to collect funds for this effort.


In addition to UMCOR’s partnerships with GlobalMedic and the UCCJ, the organization is also in contact with international ecumenical partners Church World Service (CWS) and ACT Alliance to help coordinate relief efforts.


While Japan, as a developed country, is well equipped to respond to disasters, the sheer magnitude of the current compound emergency stretches thin even those resources.


Responding to Expressed Needs

UMCOR is committed to working with partners in Japan and with the Japanese authorities to discern and respond effectively to needs as they continue to arise.

To this end, UMCOR published this morning a series of Relief Advisories on the Japan Crisis, guidelines that address the most commonly raised concerns that have arisen among United Methodists and others of goodwill in the United States since the emergency began.


The document clarifies that no requests have been received to date from Japan for volunteers to assist in relief efforts. The situation in Japan, it says, “is not conducive to relief volunteers coming in from other countries.”


Neither UMCOR nor Global Ministries will facilitate the sending of volunteers to disaster zones without an official request by local partners or government agencies, the document specifies.

With regard to relief supplies, the advisories indicate that “UMCOR welcomes layette and school kits, but it is uncertain whether or where such items will be permitted to enter Japan. Any kits received will be distributed where they are most needed in the world.”

The document reminds readers that the situation in Japan at this time “remains volatile because of uncertainty about radiation from the damaged nuclear reactors.” This volatility continues to impact both the Japanese population and efforts to assist it.


You Can Help

You can help by supporting UMCOR’s efforts through our partners in Japan to bring food, water, and other necessities to earthquake and tsunami survivors.  Your support will allow UMCOR to provide not only immediate assistance but long-term rehabilitation.


Japan Emergency, UMCOR Advance #3021317 is the designated giving channel for contributions to respond to the crisis in Japan. This advance originally was called Pacific Emergency, when the risk of tsunamis was expected to affect the entire region.

One hundred percent of donations to this advance will help the people of Japan recover from this still unfolding disaster. Your generosity will support the rebuilding of communities, and may address the reconstruction of homes and places of worship, among other needs.


It is your support for One Great Hour of Sharing that makes it possible for UMCOR to use every cent of every dollar donated to a specific Advance, like this one, to be used entirely for the designated purpose. Please participate in One Great Hour of Sharing on April 3, or give now.


Please keep the people of Japan in your prayers, particularly as they wait out efforts to control the risk from the damaged nuclear reactors.


*Linda Unger is staff editor and senior writer for UMCOR. 

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