Apr 2013


[Disaster Risk Reduction] Q&A Manual – Assistance for Foreigners at Times of Disaster

Do you know about the ‘Evacuation Support for Vulnerable People to Disasters’ system? It’s a system that one can register to at each city, town, and village prior to a disaster to preferentially receive support if it is difficult for you to evacuate on your own. Residents that apply include aged households,  those in need of nursing care, disabled persons, patients with intractable diseases, expectant mothers, families with children under the age of 5, and also non-Japanese residents who have difficulty in speaking Japanese. There are also municipalities gathering bilingual volunteers to support foreigners at times of crisis and disaster as so they do not get left behind by the lack of information able to be obtained due to the language barrier.

The reason Peace Boat’s Disaster Volunteer Centre was able to receive international volunteers from 56 countries and regions around the world is because of the presence of bilingual volunteers to support communication.
As introduced earlier, out of the 23 wards in Tokyo, Shinjuku has the most dense population of residing foreigners. Just seeing the registered number of residents, there are people from 114 different countries and regions living in the Shinjuku area. If you include the number of foreign workers during the day, this figure may even increase.

In Tokyo efforts are being made to provide information in not only Japanese but also in English, Chinese and Korean, yet it is still going to take time for other languages. Unless groups such as international exchange associations, NGOs, volunteers and civil organizations feel that they must do something on their own accord, efforts may not be made to bridge this gap.
On the website of the Tokyo International Communication Committee, you can view the Assistance Manual for Foreigners in Times of Disaster that is issued, including information in around 60 categories such as where to go to get food during a disaster or where to submit necessary applications.

Until last year this manual was available in simple Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean and Tagalog, but this year a Thai and Spanish version have been made as well – making a total of 7 different languages. As a part of our international interaction when visiting Latin American countries, Peace Boat has always had a need to constantly work with Spanish, and so Peace Boat cooperated in the Spanish translation of the manual.

The Spanish version of  the Assistance for Foreigners at Times of Disaster Q&A manual

At the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Ambassadors in Japan from Latin American countries visited Ishinomaki. They delivered relief goods and volunteered while visiting different shelters.

Of course the manuals are not yet provided in every language and not all content is covered. Apart from that, even if someone non-Japanese knows where to submit forms and such, the person at the counter usually can only speak in Japanese, hindering all progress. However it is these small speculative language supports that could possibly save lives.

‘Information’ is one of the most important pillars of disaster relief necessary at a time of crisis, just like ‘people’, ‘materials’ and ‘money’.  When a disaster occurs, there may be a foreigner near you who is troubled because they cannot acquire ‘information’. Please utilize the Assistance Manual for Foreigners in Times of Disaster and use it for yourself to be an information volunteer.