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Caritas brings warmth to quake survivors

Winter brings new problems for displaced people

Help has been needed since the devastating quake in March (photo: Caritas Japan) Help has been needed since the devastating quake in March (photo: Caritas Japan)
  • ucanews.com correspondent, Tokyo
  • Japan
  • December 13, 2011
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Caritas Japan has arranged to provide heaters to approximately 9,100 households displaced by the Great East Japan Earthquake and now living in temporary housing.

The Catholic relief organization reached an agreement concerning the new project with the Sendai City government and revealed the initiative late last month.

The new project’s beneficiaries are those living in private rental properties and apartments normally reserved for government workers. Since such spaces don’t fit the conventional definition of “temporary housing,” they are sometimes referred to as “deemed-temporary” housing.

Relief organizations such as Caritas Japan are paying particular attention to these “deemed-temporary” accommodations because they lack cold-weather measures such as heaters and double-glazing that were included in the prefabricated homes that the government specially constructed in response to the disaster.

The government pays the rent for these privately let apartments, but did not consider it necessary to also supply heating equipment because such properties are commonly rented by ordinary people without them.

Still, according to Caritas Japan secretary, Fr Daisuke Narui, SVD, people placed in these temporary accommodations need extra help because they have lost all of the tools of everyday life in the disaster.

But the effort is complicated by the fact that, although the government of each prefecture knows the addresses of the victims, private relief organizations don’t, because they are living all over the city in conventional apartments.

“It’s already hard for these people to be self-sufficient. And on top of that, it’s awful for them not to be included in the distribution of heating equipment. So non-governmental organizations talked about it and decided to divide up the task of making sure everyone in deemed-temporary housing gets a heater,” Fr Narui said.

He described the reaction of the Sendai City government as “unusually enthusiastic.” The city sent notices to all the relevant households, asking them whether they had a need for oil fan heaters. They also set up a call center to facilitate the process.

Previously, at the end of October, Caritas Japan had finalized discussions with Iwate Prefecture to provide 4,000 heaters to families facing similar needs there. Next up is Fukushima Prefecture, where Caritas Japan and officials are still working out the details.

The major remaining problem, according to Fr Narui, is that there are people whose homes were badly damaged in the disaster, but who had no choice but to return and go on living in them.

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