The central and local governments have found that more than 200 children in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures became orphans in the March 11 quake and tsunami and, consequently, have provided them livelihood and education support.

The public sector must also locate children who lost one parent in the disasters and support them as needed.

A survey conducted at the end of May by Ashinaga Ikueikai (Educational and Emotional Support for Orphans Worldwide) is helpful in understanding the overall situation surrounding children who lost either one or both parents.

Ashinaga has been providing one-time support money ranging from ¥500,000 to ¥1 million to children — from preschool children to university students — who lost either one or both parents, or who have suffered serious aftereffects due to the March 11 disasters.

The survey covered 1,120 such children at 707 households, who received the money from the charity organization.

It found that 49 percent of the households were mother-child households, 30 percent father-child households, and 19 percent parentless households in which uncles, aunts or grandparents were taking care of children.

The last group includes 61 previously mother-child households and 20 previously father-child households.

Guardians were in their 40s in 43 percent of the total households, in their 30s in 23 percent, and in their 50s in 19 percent.

The youngest guardian was a 19-year-old woman, who lost her widow mother and is taking care of her 18-year-old sister.

Of the children, 30 percent were elementary school children and 22 percent high school students. The percentage of elementary school children is high compared with the case of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, in which 23 percent were elementary school children and 26 percent high school students.

Guardians are economically in a difficult situation. Thirty-seven percent were permanently employed, 17 percent temporarily employed, 23 percent jobless and 8 percent were seeking employment.

The public sector must not only fully inform guardians about a survivor’s pension and a special child allowance for a one-parent household but also provide decent residences and help guardians find jobs. Long-time assistance will become necessary.

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