More than t wo months after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan, the pace of reconstruction work is gradually picking up. But more than 100,000 people continue to live in harsh conditions at temporary shelters.
Among them are Fukushima Prefecture residents who were forced to flee their residences after the enforcement of a no-entry zone around the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Stress levels are rising among these people and some feel that they are reaching the limits of their endurance. They have little privacy, few chances to bathe or wash their clothes and cannot even use toilet facilities as frequently as they would like.
The food they receive is not well balanced nutritionally as vegetables are lacking, and dehydration and food poisoning pose a hazard.
The central and local governments must take meticulously thought-out measures to quickly and correctly respond to the needs of evacuees. The health of many of those staying in temporary shelters is deteriorating due to the stress of living in close proximity to so many fellow evacuees and to sleeping problems. In most temporary shelters, toilets are of the Japanese style, causing difficulties for elderly people.
A survey held in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures in mid-April showed that in 186 shelters — 36 percent of the 510 temporary shelters whose conditions were examined — spare undergarments were unavailable, or it was impossible to wash clothes. Thirty percent of the shelters had fairly adequate partitions, 45 percent had meager partitions and 25 percent had none at all. In slightly more than 30 percent of them, evacuees could bathe only once a week. The three prefectures in total had 987 temporary shelters.
Residents in shelters face daunting psychological and hygiene problems. Rising temperatures will increase the risk of infectious diseases and dehydration. Precautions must be taken to guard against such threats.
Local governments must also not forget to render proper assistance to disaster victims who remain in their homes. Elderly people who have chronic diseases or are bed-ridden in particular require special attention.