Tohoku orphans get aid despite donation shortfall

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Financial aid is on the way faster than anticipated for children who lost family in the March 11 disasters, but donations are still short of covering all of those in need.

As of Wednesday, the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Ashinaga had received ¥3.88 billion, which the fund said were much larger and arrived faster than initially anticipated.

Ashinaga was at first planning to distribute about ¥100,000 to ¥400,000 per child, but as of December they had provided ¥2 million each for the 1,939 children in the Tohoku region, said Yoji Yamakita, an executive at the fund.

The group began distributing money much earlier to the Tohoku orphans than those in the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, prioritizing the delivery of cash to children first instead of waiting for a certain amount of the donations to arrive, Yamakita said.

“We’ve been able to operate efficiently and provide financial assistance for the orphans,” Yamakita said.

According to the health ministry, 240 children in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures lost both their parents in the Great East Japan Earthquake, compared with 68 in the Hanshin quake.

Local governments are also stepping up efforts to help children who lost family members.

Miyagi Prefecture agreed on a plan in December to provide long-term financial assistance.

According to a Miyagi official, the prefecture will provide a monthly payment of ¥10,000 to ¥30,000 to orphans under 18 years old and also distribute up to ¥600,000 on some occasions, such as when the child graduates from junior high school.