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2020 PBV Project Briefing Session

Disaster Relief Amidst COVID-19

PBV held its annual Project Briefing session virtually on 18 Dec 2020. The session was open to registration to members of the public – especially those who have supported PBV’s efforts one way or another – to update and inform them about PBV’s activities throughout 2020. At the start of the session, an overview of how COVID-19 has impacted PBV’s disaster relief efforts was given. With concerns about how COVID-19 would put pressure on existing societal frameworks and systems, PBV has coined COVID-19 as a disaster on a global scale. COVID-19 has made it difficult for PBV staff to enter into disaster-hit areas due to movement restrictions, while the recruitment of volunteers has not been easy as well. Despite these problems this year, PBV still continued to assist disaster-struck areas in Japan in the running of disaster relief centers, rebuilding projects and disaster prevention education, with the aim of meeting the needs of these communities as much as possible.

Disaster Relief Projects (Domestic and International)

The main segment of the session comprised presentations by PBV staff members who have been responsible for responding to the various disasters that have hit Japan and the world. Made possible by the use of technology, PBV’s team in Chiba prefecture – assisting in rebuilding efforts post-Typhoon 15 and 19 – managed to share their experiences in the field. As Typhoon 19 that struck in 2019 had been one of the most severe in recent years, PBV had also sent aid to Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture, helping in the running of the volunteer and evacuation centers while teaching the local communities how better to protect themselves from future disasters. The severe flooding in July this year that hit Kumamoto Prefecture was also a focal point of PBV’s relief efforts. As the torrential rains and subsequent damage to Kumamoto Prefecture had hit during COVID-19, PBV staff on the ground also had to exercise extra caution against any possible spread of the disease at evacuation centers. Issues such as a high human density and the availability of ventilation became additional concerns to be mindful of.

Beyond Japan, PBV’s projects internationally were also highlighted. Assistance given to Mozambique (Cyclone Idai in 2018), Australia (Bushfires) and China (COVID-19) were a few examples that were listed. In particular, the spirit of reciprocity was noted when after PBV sent masks to Wenzhou Province in China at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, PBV subsequently received masks from a Chinese donor when the pandemic spread to Japan. Most recently, PBV was also involved in donating funds after the Mauritius oil spill incident. PBV is currently raising funds for central Vietnam, which suffered severe flood damage this year.

Partners and Networks

The review session also emphasized the importance of collaborating with other organizations and partners in disaster relief and prevention matters. While PBV has been rendering aid to others, it has also been the beneficiary of organizations such as the Center for Disaster Philanthropy in the US, which has granted funds to assist in PBV’s relief activities. Establishing ties with groups such as the Social Emergency Management Alliance in Japan has also created networks that PBV could tap upon if necessary, to harness additional resources working towards the same objectives.

Disaster Relief Outlook – Climate Change, Aging Population, COVID-19

The session ended with a sober reminder that as climate change persists, the intensity and frequency of disasters has also been increasing. As societal trends such as an aging population continue, the lack of community support in rural areas will only be exacerbated too. COVID-19 restrictions have also resulted in a reduction in the number of volunteers available and able to enter disaster-hit areas. PBV will continue to share its know-how, improve the lives and conditions of those living in evacuation centers, as well as assist in the rebuilding and reconstruction of homes such that evacuees could return to a state of relative normalcy as soon as possible.