Some people call emergency evacuation centers in Japan "worse than refugee camps" because in most places people sleep on the floor of a school gym without partitions for privacy. Under such poor living conditions, evacuees may develop serious health problems, and the weak, including babies and the elderly, are the ones who suffer most. With Japan having been hit hard by a number of natural disasters recently, it is time to improve conditions in evacuation centers.
When the Great East Japan Earthquake devastated the Tohoku region in 2011, the government created disaster prevention guidelines asking municipalities to set up separate toilets and changing rooms for men and women in emergency shelters and to have female staff who can work more effectively with women and children. However, many shelters set up after recent torrential rains and typhoons failed to meet these standards.
This week, the government created an expert panel that will discuss ways to make the nation's evacuation centers more women- and children-friendly, and will hammer out a proposal by the end of the current fiscal year. Given the pressing need to improve the quality of evacuation centers, the government should move faster.