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Sharing the lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake

2012.10.14 Sasa Tomo

The school bag left in the damaged building in Higashi-Matsushima City

"Sendai dialogue on disaster risk management in a changing world," a special event as part of the "IMF & World Bank Annual Meeting" was held in Sendai, an area affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, on October 9 and 10. Three hundred and twenty people from 40 countries and 8 international organizations attended the meeting and exchanged ideas about managing risks associated with natural disasters, which are rising due to urbanization and climate change, and international support for development projects in developing countries.

In her keynote speech, Yukie Osa, the president of the international NGO, Association for Aid and Relief Japan, underlined the importance of a disaster prevention plan, which takes into consideration people who are socially vulnerable or have disabilities. She explained the situation at the evacuation center she went to help out. People with disabilities could not get the information they needed, people in wheelchairs faced many inconveniences such as not being able to go to the restroom because of all the steps, and many people passed away at the centers even though they had survived the disaster.

In order to share the learnings from the Great East Japan Earthquake with the rest of the world, the World Bank and the Japanese government launched the "Learning from Mega Disasters" project. They have researched and analyzed the measures employed during the disaster and the extent of the damage, and the information has been compiled into 6 thematic clusters containing a total of 32 knowledge notes. For example, with respect to "Non-structural Measures," local communities played a very important role in preventing disasters. The notes highlight case examples in which community-based organizations helped save many lives, and how important it is for national and municipal governments to recognize the roles people of the community play when trying to offer support.

TEDxSendai was also held on October 10. TED was founded as a one-off event in 1984, but now it has evolved into a series of conferences devoted to disseminating "ideas worth spreading." It invites speakers who are active in the front lines of technology, design, and many other genres. TEDx follows this concept and now conferences are held in over 60 countries. The theme of TEDxSendai was "Natural Disasters." Mike North, a host of Discovery Channel's "Prototype This!", introduced new ideas and technologies that can be useful in times of disasters such as a pilotless aircraft that can deliver a life vest to an individual who may be drowning. Yoshi Tabata, the author of the picture-story show, "Tsunami," talked about her own experience of the tsunami and how imperative it is to tell the generation to come the importance of staying alive and saving lives.

And last but not least, Mr. Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank appeared as a surprise guest and talked about his hopes of applying the lessons learned from Japan's disaster prevention strategy to developing countries that still lack the know-how.

The words by Professor Yoshiaki Kawata of the Kansai University as well as the project advisory group leader of the Japan-World Bank project was also very memorable - "It has been a year and 7 months since the earthquake. This will not be our last. So we must develop countermeasures while the memories are still fresh."

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Peace, the Earth

The area of this news

Miyagi, Japan (Japan

Sasa Tomo

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