Just last week I was discussing nursing education collaboration with Japanese colleagues. With a population of 86% over the age of 14 and 22% over the age 65, Japan a country of some 126,000,000 people, has been grappling with an aging boom. Priorities in health care rapidly shifted some 48 hours later, as Japan experienced the one of the most powerful earthquakes recorded. For many of us living in well-known earthquake zones, the preparedness of the Japanese sets the bar. The 8.9 magnitude of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami highlights the challenges in the face of this devastating earthquake. According to experts at the USGS offices, the earthquake was so strong that movement of the tectonic plates shifted the Japanese coast some eight feet. There is no doubt that the deaths and destruction was reduced by preparation for earthquakes. Despite all the disaster preparedness expertise, the numbers of people dead or missing mounts along with need for emergency health care, housing, food, clean water and sanitation. To add to the challenges, the damage done to nuclear power plants has led to leakage radioactivity. Similar to the deadly 2006 earthquake and Tsunami in Indonesia and nearby countries, there is a need for humanitarian aid.
How do we begin to help in the face of such a disaster? First and foremost, we can contribute and urge our friends and families to contribute to reputable funds such as listed below. Disaster relief will require money to provide shelter, food and clean water for months and years to come. The message from all humanitarian organizations is that money is now the most flexible way to provide assistance. We need to stay informed about the continuing needs for assistance. A disaster of this magnitude will require our ongoing assistance for years to come.
Second, we can support and comfort the many American and Japanese who worry for the fate and safety of their loved ones. Many countries such as the US have established systems to inquire about U.S. citizens living or traveling in Japan, recommending that concerned individuals call the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 or 202 647-5225. In addition, the web browser Google has set up a people finder communication site at: Google has opened a Person Finder page.
Third, as health care providers, we need to recognize that disasters such as what we are seeing unfold in Japan will trigger post-traumatic stress in individuals who may have experienced previous trauma. Finally, for the many of millions of health care providers who live in disaster prone areas - which is just about anywhere - preparation and planning continue to be essential.
Suggested links for donations include the following:
- American Red Cross
- Doctors Without Borders
- Global Giving
- International Medical Corps
- The Salvation Army
About the Author: Karen Anne Wolf PhD, RNP-BC, DPNAP is Associate Professor at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, CA. She was formerly Associate Director of the Nursing Program at the MGH Institute of Health Professions and an adult nurse practitioner in the Cambridge Health Alliance Senior Health Center. A writer and editor of a variety of article and books on nursing trends, politics, practices and history including, “A History of Nursing Ideas" and the "The Selected Work of JoAnn Ashley". She enjoys writing for lay audience and urges her nursing colleagues to share their stories.