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2020/08/26

【Kyushu Heavy Rain 2020 Floods Assistance】 NPO Partner Project Supports Community-Driven Disaster Recovery Efforts

On August 25, two months since the deadly torrential rain in July, the Government of Japan has announced that the disaster in Kyushu will be designated as an extremely severe disaster. Budgets allocated to reconstruction and COVID-19 prevention measures will be increased. However, at the local level, due to COVID-19, there is a critical shortage of manpower to assist the recovery and reconstruction efforts. The affected people are busy removing mud from the flooded homes, cleaning and sterilizing molds that grew wide during the rainy season, and filling out paperwork to receive assistance. Aging communities are overwhelmed and many do not know where to start.

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“The complex emergency combined with the floods and COVID-19 brought a wide range of restrictions that we have never seen before,” said Mr. Masakiyo Murai of the NGO Collaboration Center (pictured center). The NGO Collaboration Center has been providing disaster recovery assistance across Japan for 25 years since the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Mr. Murai began collecting information about the damage from local partners and news reports after the onset of the disaster. After a few days, he visited Kuma Village which suffered from extensive damages. Kuma Village has 79 communities with 3,400 residents. Many communities became stranded after the flood water swept in and they were not reachable by roads to receive assistance. Some stranded residents in Kuma Village were rescued by ARROWS via a helicopter. The other communities finally regained road access after more than a month.

Mr. Murai visited the communities to assess the damages with the community leader. He also visited the other heavily affected areas including Hitoyoshi, Yatsushiro, Minamata, and Uto in Kumamoto Prefecture.

“My method is called POSCO.” POSCO* means assistance centers pop up during disasters and the word originated from Indonesia which is prone to natural disasters. POSCO is normally born organically from the affected population and it becomes the backbone of community recovery and reconstruction.

POSCO may sound foreign to many people but Japan is no stranger to something similar to POSCO where people come together to help each other during large-scale disasters. Civic Force has not only assisted public evacuation centers during the Great East Japan Earthquake and West Japan Floods but we have also supported grassroots community groups and local NPOs supporting the victims sheltering at home. Each POSCO became a safe place for community residents to gather together and hosted a variety of activities including relief item distribution, soup kitchens, and DRR study groups.

Community-driven initiatives such as POSCO can be an opportunity for the already declined rural community and create room to think further about the long-existing challenges in the community. POSCO can also connect the local authorities with the communities during long-term reconstruction efforts.

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“The roles of the local residents are becoming larger as out-of-prefecture volunteers are discouraged to visit. This experience is a first for everyone but local residents should be the ones taking a lead in the recovery and reconstruction of their own community. We as aid workers should respect that vision and participate in their efforts,” said Mr. Murai.

In August, Civic Force and Mr. Murai began a NPO Partner Project, “Assisting Japanese POSCO for Rapid Disaster Recovery.” The Project will support disaster relief activities implemented by seven to ten local community groups including a group organized by the victims, DRR volunteer groups, temples, business associations, and NPOs. The groups will also share their experiences with the others and work on community recovery and reconstruction.

With limited funds, Civic Force always explores the most effective ways to assist the disaster-affected communities for recovery and reconstruction efforts. Building on Mr. Murai’s past experiences and networks, the NPO Partner Project aims to support various activities for the victims sheltering at home, women, and children.

More on Japanese POSCO will be featured next time. The NGO Collaboration Center is also working in Hita, Oita Prefecture, which was heavily affected by the July heavy rain. Please click here for more details.  

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* POSCO:In Indonesian, "POS" means a post and "KO" means army. The world POSCO originated from a frontline army post. "KO" was resplaced with "CO" to express the words "communication" and "corporation." POSCO is a small unit of disaster-affected people and anyone can install POSCO. POSCO can mean a post as in space or a group that works in that space. During the 2009 Sumatra earthquakes, the Government of Indonesia restricted POSCO in order to streamline assistance activities. However, a number of POSCOs popped up organically and as a result, those POSCOs ended up working with the government to support the reconstruction efforts. (Mr. Tomoki Motozuka, Associate Professor, Architecture Department at the National Institute of Technology, Akashi College)