Nordost-Japan: Japan Lutheran Emergency Relief (JLER)




Enge Kooperation der 4 Luth. Kirchen in Japan


Initiative by Japan Lutheran Churches

Immediately after the devastation the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC) initiated a response and invited other Lutheran Churches to join the efforts. Accordingly the JELC, Japan Lutheran Church (NRK), Kinki Evangelical Lutheran Church (KELC) and West Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (WJELC) have joined together by forming âJapan Lutheran Emergency Relief.â Immediately, the taskforce heading JLER developed clear roles and responsibilities for members to minimize duplication of relief efforts.


Chair person of JLER ãRev. Sumiyuki WATABABE (center)

Appeal for Funding

Project: Japan Higashi-Nihon Earthquake and Tsunami Response

Overview of Disaster

On March 11, 2011 a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred just off the coast of north eastern Honshu, Japan, triggering a massive tsunami and a nuclear disaster.

The fragility of technologically-advanced Japan was exposed in the most terrifying way in the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast, leaving some 11,438 people dead, more than 16,540 missing, and some 172,064 homeless (as of March 31).

Both the earthquake and tsunami caused extensive destruction. In some locations, the tsunami reached heights of 16 meters, while in others it was between 10-14 meters. The coastal areas from Iwate, Fukushima and Ibaragi prefectures were most severely affected. Entire towns were washed away, with tsunami waters extending some 10 kilometers inland is some places.

The tsunami also damaged a nuclear power plant located on the coast of Fukushima Prefecture, knocking out the power to the cooling systems. Even though the plant had shut down, the fuel rods in four reactors overheated. This caused extensive damage, including several explosions, and radiation was released into the atmosphere. Efforts to stabilize the reactors, restore the cooling system, and stop the radiation leaks are ongoing. Presently, radiation is being detected in the ocean waters and on the ground surrounding the plant, as well as in the air. A 20 kilometer exclusive zone has been declared with forced evacuation, and a further 10 kilometers as a voluntary evacuation area.

Destruction to homes and property from the tsunami is enormous. Many fishing communities and seaports have been destroyed. Additionally, saltwater flooding into prime fertile agricultural land, and remaining stagnant there will make recovery difficult. In the region surrounding the nuclear power plant, high levels of radiation has been detected in vegetation, and production of all agricultural products, including milk, has been stopped.

Given the very significant level of emergency preparedness and response capacity in Japan, the Government sought support from international humanitarian community.

The Government has not highlighted any major gaps in the response for which international assistance is requested. However, this is a rapidly evolving situation and the scale and nature of the emergency are still only emerging as the needs are changing and the assistance are yet to reach all affected people.
Despite the magnitude of this disaster and amidst the great loss of many lives, described as Japanâs greatest catastrophe since World War II, people of all stripes are moving ahead with life, in an orderly and cooperative way. Many are already starting to return to the sites of their devastated homes, and thinking cool headedly about how to start over.

Congregations affected by the disaster are: Sendai Lutheran Church and Tsurugaya Lutheran Church (JELC), both in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture; Fukushima Izumi Lutheran Church and Kooriyama Lutheran Church (NRK) in Fukushima Prefecture; and a few congregations of the Japan Lutheran Brethren Church in Miyagi. No severe damage was reported from any of the Lutheran churches, nor were there any casualties from among members. (All the churches were not in the tsunami-affected area). However, several members from the Brethren Church are reported to have lost their homes to the tsunami.

Initiative by Japan Lutheran Churches:

Immediately after the devastation the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC) initiated a response and invited other Lutheran Churches to join the efforts. Accordingly the JELC, Japan Lutheran Church (NRK), Kinki Evangelical Lutheran Church (KELC) and West Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (WJELC) have joined together by forming âJapan Lutheran Emergency Relief.â Immediately, the taskforce heading JLER developed clear roles and responsibilities for members to minimize duplication of relief efforts. The accompaniments of LWF, Geneva, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have added strength to the Task Force.

An experienced Emergency Adviser is seconded to JLER from LWF and, without loss of time, the churchesâ initiatives have been systematized and further linkages with other agencies, such as the Japan Platform (JPF) regularized.

Rapid Action by the JLER

The churches established contacts in the affected area have enabled the task force to gear up with the logistic support to reach some of the neediest areas with relief supplies. For this JLER utilized the channel of local Non Profit Organizations (NPOs), such as the YMCA and other civic organizations.

Initial shipment on March 25

An initial shipment of supplies was dispatched from Tokyo together with an advance assessment team of four persons. They took with them not just initial food supplies, but one motorcycle and two bicycles by which to get around locally. Their tasks included:

  • Expressing the solidarity with two JELC congregations in Sendai, through worship and meetings.
  • Meeting with ecumenical partners (Catholic, Episcopal, etc)
  • Consultation with local government and social welfare council authorities at the prefecture level.
  • Visit some affected areas.

Second shipment on 28 March 2011

Three 4 ton trucks containing:
1) Rice, instant soup, bananas, Miso (Japanese bean paste soup)
transported to Ishinomaki city, Miyagi Prefecture, to the city's sports park.
Distribution responsibility: JELC
2) Rice, instant soup, banana and, Miso
To Hanamokai city in Iwate Prefecture
Distribution responsibility: CCP (Campaign for Children from Palestine)
3) Rice, instant soup, bananas, Miso and water
To Natori city, Miyagi Prefecture, to the emergency response headquarters
Responsibility: ICA (Institute of Cultural Affairs)
In addition to the above purchased items, in-kind gifts (many of the same kinds of items- rice, Miso, crackers, instant noodles/soup) from Lutheran congregations and individuals were included in each truck.


Coordination is key in any disaster, and attempts to come together at various levels have been happening in order to assess the situation and developments, coordinate among agencies, and develop plans to reach into every affected community

The Japanese government has established a task force through the office of the Prime Minister, with the National Social Welfare Council responsible for government coordination. The Japanese Self-Defence Force (JSDF ⦠the equivalent of a military) is engaged in various relief activities.

Outside of this, the Japan Platform (JPF), which originally was conceived to coordinate Japanese responses to refugee and natural disasters situations around the world, is coordinating INGOs, UN agencies, and Non Profit Organizations (NPOs) into action.

At the prefectural level, coordination is done by the Prefectural Social Welfare councils. At more local levels, Disaster Volunteers Councils (DVC) are active in providing aid. DVC task force members are conversant with their respective areas, with needs identified and supply systems put into place.

In addition to coordinating among Lutheran churches, the JELC is in conversation with the Episcopal Church of Japan and the Roman Catholic Church about possible coordination. Additionally, the Japan Christian Federation (bringing together Protestant and Catholic churches) is the forum in which information has been shared among churches.

Current analysis and challenges

Following the Hanshin Great Earthquake in 1995, where large numbers of volunteers and NPOs converged and created an uncontrolled situation on the ground, local governments and municipalities are very hesitant to accept outside organizations and individuals from engaging in relief work. Additionally, many communities in the Tohoku region have a very close-knit administrative identity, making it difficult for outsiders to engage in work on their territories.
The church in Japan may be known for excellence in education and social services, but it has not been a known entity in disaster relief. This further complicates the entry of the churches into relief work in this disaster.

Critical needs

Needs change by the day. Most communities have sufficient material supplies, including food, and have thus started limiting further introduction of material supplies. Stores in some of the areas (outside those hit by the tsunami itself) have begun operating somewhat normally. Electricity has been restored in many locales, though water and gas has still not been restored everywhere.

The major problem is a distribution network, where gasoline is in short supply or non-existent. Even as material supplies have reached many DVCs, the means to distribute supplies to outlying evacuation centers and among individuals is limited. In these places, authorities have called on people to come collect needed things, but this again is not possible without gasoline for transportation. This is particularly difficult for the elderly.

Meanwhile, the media often paints a severe picture about certain places, bringing much-needed attention to these particular spots. This means there are many gaps where there has been no attention paid.

Therefore, despite DVCs and other key evacuation centers or distribution points being well-stocked, major gaps exist. The churchesâ distribution of supplies from its shipments to the area has been welcomed by local residents. Further gaps in the supply network need to be identified.


Highways have been reopened to the general disaster area. Evacuation centers are also accessible. However, access from these centers to the actual disaster zones often has to be by bicycle or on foot. There is little or no gasoline available as supply routes have been cut and gasoline stations destroyed. In Sendai city, gasoline is now available, but there is often a 3-4 hour wait in line. In some affected areas, 10 liters of gas per person has been offered to residents. The rail network is totally inoperable, and buses are functioning at very limited levels.


Those in emergency evacuation centers are under the watch of local health officials. But many have not been able to bathe or otherwise maintain good hygiene. Those who are still in their homes do not all have access to health services (again, lack of transportation with no gasoline is a problem). Further surveys are needed to provide for visitation nurses, medical treatment, and medication.

Emotional health

Many people are supporting one another, but this may be coming to an end. Issues of privacy (in evacuation centers) and stress are emerging. Children are especially vulnerable, with some not able to play outside or not willing to leave the side of their parents. Children who have been looking forward to the new academic year (which begins in April) are painfully reminded that they cannot be with their friends or enjoy school.


Many schools in the affected areas will not be able to immediately open their doors to the new school year. This is either due to direct damage from the tsunami or with schools being used as evacuation centers.

The work and plans by local government or administrative units

Despite there being âopeningsâ for outside groups to come in and engage in relief work, the key figures are still the Japan Self-Defence Force ( JSDF), fire departments and police. Their major task remains searching for missing ones (searching for bodies.) The prefectural and municipal Social Welfare councils are responsible for material aid, and receiving and sending volunteers. It is anticipated that these government agencies will take the lead in community rebuilding policy, funding, investments and land development.

Meanwhile the cleanup continues at a slow pace. Bodies still may lay among the rubble. Heavy equipment is needed to remove the debris and the work is dangerous. Many cars have been tossed around as well, not to say fishing boats and ships (with images of cars and boats sitting atop multi-story buildings.) There is no place to which to move the debris.

Some communities see a night and day difference between areas destroyed by the tsunami and intact neighborhoods. Those destroyed areas have very few liveable homes remaining. According to the Miyagi Prefecture Social Welfare Council, it will be at least 3 months before long-term needs can be addressed. This period of moving from an emergency response stage to reconstruction, even if that means temporary housing,


As the churches are considered âoutsideâ entities not necessarily given access to areas of need at this point, connecting with existing NPOs already established therein is important. The YMCA has already been active in many areas prior to the disaster, and can be a possible partner within the increasingly competitive arena of offering social services and the need to network with local administrations. The Sendai city Christian Council is also another link into communities. But these have to be in the form of working through or within these organizations rather than working with; i.e. these are the organizations that carry the responsibility.

The Churches initiatives are being linked with these frontline team through local NPOs and Church Institutions contacts in delivering the supplies to the affected people.

The need for coordination at different level is slowly being realized. JLER has been meeting regularly to coordinate Lutheran church efforts. At the March 31 meeting of JLER, a report from the advance team was received, in which possibilities for further work in the disaster zone were explored, possibilities explained, and a budget established. The Churchesâ existing expertises are being pooled to support each other in this relief effort.â

In addition to this, JLER is gearing to attend to other important coordination mechanism at the national and prefecture levels.

core group of JLER and newly appointed field staffs April 4,2011 -
A new staff has joined in Tokyo office on April 15

Budget Details

By and large, the Government of Japan is in control over the disaster response activities. After a 6-day visit to the affected areas, the Japan Lutheran Emergency Relief assessment team returned to Tokyo. According to their report, there are several gaps when considering the realities on the ground and changing needs in areas affected by earthquake and tsunami. The following budget has been prepared in the light of their finding as well as work already begun.

The Government currently does not encourage new INGOs to take relief activities directly to the people; but local NPOs, such as the YMCA and other civic organizations, are allowed, through whom Japan Lutheran Emergency Relief Task force is implementing the activities.

Food Commodities

The food commodities are considered in the budget to fill the gaps identified by the JLER volunteers during their visit to the affected communities. The costs are estimated based on the bulk purchase of certain items, while the other items are based on prevailing market rate.

Non Food Commodities

The non-food items are based on the needs identified during the field visit by the assessment team and local NPOs.


The local authorities have appreciated the logistic support extended during the crucial period, which will be continued during this appeal period. Two types of logistic arrangements are considered. One is in-kind materials donated by individual, groups and congregations from outside the affected area. These have been collected in a main warehouse at Tokyo, from where they are transported to the affected area. The other type is materials purchased by JLER are transported to the affected area. All materials will be gathered in one of two warehouses being secured by JLER close to the affected area, from which they will be transported to the distribution centres by small vehicles (in-kind donations will be able to be shipped directly to these warehouses instead of Tokyo.) Since the fuel crisis is still continuing, the local logistic in the affected area is still a concern and challenge. This may improve in the weeks ahead.

Psycho Social Programme

In general people of Japan are considered to be mentally stronger compared to many other countries. But the multiple natural disasters coupled with human-made disaster of this magnitude have shaken many peopleâs confidence level in Japan. The worst affected are the children, who are showing symptoms of trauma. Volunteers will be trained by experienced trainers to diagnose the trauma level among those who have lost family members and/or whose property has been destroyed, to suggest appropriate steps. Provisions are made to engage the children in various sports and games activities, through which they may regain some emotional health. The Lutheran College and Seminary in Tokyo, which has social welfare, clinical psychology and counselling departments, will take a leading role in the activities.


The volunteers proposed are the frontline workers to implement the activities. Fresh Graduates from College/Seminary and other available persons from the area will be trained to discharge their given responsibilities. Volunteers will be assigned to assess the changing needs of the affected people, analyse the gaps and oversee the distribution done by the NPOs. They will be closely working with the local Disaster Volunteer Councils (DVCs). They will be equipped with communication tools and transportation (two motor cycles and 4 bicycles) for their local mobility.

The Central Government has taken the responsibility for rehabilitation and rebuilding, including residences. Therefore in the first phase for JLER response plan is to accompany and supplement the governmentâs initiative when gaps are identified, especially considering the changing needs.


In the totally devastated areas, there will be many unmet needs of the peopleâs livelihoods such as fishing equipments, tools, small scale cottage industries, mechanicsâ tools, small businesses, farming equipments, etc. While the government should be taking care of this, a gaps analysis will be conducted and JLER will support those with special needs, particularly the unreached, and ensuring no overlaps occur in such assistance. With the involvement of church members, this will be done judiciously and in an appropriate manner.

Disaster Risk Reduction/Preparedness

In all the construction activities multi hazards risk reduction measures will be considered, for which the JLER will collaborate with the concerned government departments. The livelihood support will also encourage the recipients for insurance coverage as part of risk reduction.

The Asian Rural Institute

has approached JLER to be a partner in the rebuilding their greatly damaged buildings. ARI is an important partner not just within Japan, but an important institution for rural development training needs throughout Asia and beyond. Providing this kind of support is a way of continuing much-needed education and training for rural development into the future. The amount budgeted represents 10% of the appeal ARI has made.

A multi-purpose Community centre is proposed

to be built in a yet-to-be determined area. This also will be undertaken in cooperation and possible collaboration with the local government.

Other direct project related costs is for three full time staff members, who will be engaged in the project: one in Tokyo and the other two as field officers.

PIME Support Consultant:

One experienced person in disaster management will be engaged to provide support and guidance throughout the project period. S/He will guide and monitor the total process of planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation and also provide training to the volunteers. This provision includes the costs involved for the initial three months deployment of Emergency Advisor, seconded by LWF Geneva.


3 quarterly Monitoring reports both narrative and financial; will be prepared and sent out to the resource partners during the project period. In addition to these quarterly reports, monthly financial report will be prepared for internal review.

Total budget amount is estimated to US $ 2,973,451