9/4/2011 - According to the latest government data, 82 children were orphaned by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last month.
Last month’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami that struck north-eastern Japan last month have left infrastructure, towns and even families decimated.
According to the most recent preliminary survey conducted by the Japanese government, a total of 82 children have been orphaned by the twin disasters of March 11.
This figure is higher than the number of orphans created by Japan’s last great natural disaster, the 1995 Kobe earthquake, report’s the country’s own Jiji Press. In that earthquake, which is also known as the Great Hanshin Earthquake, 68 children lost their parents.
However, according to Japan’s Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry, the number of orphans could rise as research is conducted in remote areas. This is because there are still 15,000 people missing in addition to 13,000 already registered as dead. The Ministry is hoping to enlist the help of 400 experts to organize alternative care and foster families for the orphaned children.
The children are currently spread out among three different prefectures: 44 in Iwate, 30 in Miyagi and 8 in Fukushima. A prefecture is a type of jurisdiction in Japan that is larger than a town or city. These three are those hardest hit by the quake.
There are 280 schools in the prefectures that are currently serving as evacuation centres. Only about 30% of schools in the area are not suffering from extensive damage.
More than 800 children have been directly affected by the earthquake, with more than 380 students losing their lives. About 500 children are still missing. Many children in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima are living as evacuees, having to deal with psycho-social trauma that comes with natural disasters, displacement and the loss of loved ones.
According to Japanese media sources, there is a shortage of both teachers and classrooms. Several teachers have either died or gone missing since the March 11 disasters. Schools are desperately in need of both teachers and professionals trained in the field of children’s mental health. One helpful program created in the wake of the 1995 earthquake sent 207 teachers trained in children’s mental health to earthquake-affected regions
In an effort to cope with these challenges, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has proposed a dual system whereby half of schoolchildren attend school in the morning and half attend in the afternoon in addition to Saturday classes. New schools with dormitories for primary and middle-school aged children have also been proposed.
“Restarting school is the most direct way for children to recover their normal daily lives,” said one Ministry official.