Support for the Victims of the Japan Earthquake with 1,794 Solar Lanterns

Project location: JAPAN, Miyagi
Project start date: May 2011 - Project end date: May 2011
Project number: 2011-01
Beneficiary: UNHCR


In view of the electricity difficulties suffered by Japan as a consequence of the earthquake, solar lamps distribution was considered as a way to alleviate the problems of Japan population through the introduction of innovative technologies already tested by UNHCR in situation of lack of electricity and illumination.

Following to the specific request received by the Japan Government 1,796 special UNHCR solar lamps, donated by Nando Peretti Foundation, were handed out to benefit people from Ishinomaki in north-eastern Miyagi prefecture, one of the areas hardest hit by the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, which also triggered a devastating nuclear power plant accident.

UNHCR flew in the eco-friendly solar lamps from its supplier in India and trucked them to Ishinomaki to shine a ray of light - and hope - into the evacuation shelters for some 10,000 people.

Despite freezing temperatures and lack of water and electricity, resilient residents in the worst affected areas go back to clean up their damaged homes during the daytime but eat their meals and sleep in evacuation centres at night.

Local government officials and displaced residents at Minato Elementary School, temporary home to about 2,700 people, gratefully took delivery of the lamps. Charged by sunlight and normally bought by UNHCR for use in refugee camps, the lamps can run for hours at night.

The distribution was realized by Shinji Kubo a UNHCR official who had joined UNHCR 18 years ago, dreaming of helping refugees around the world. "I never thought I would be back in my hometown, helping my neighbours," said the senior external relations officer for the UN refugee agency's Tokyo office. Kubo, whose own family suffered in the earthquake and tsunami, said he hoped the beacons would be a comfort as well as a practical aid to people who had suffered so much so suddenly.

"They have lost their homes, their belongings and loved ones," he said. "Although the current situation is highly devastating, I hope this small light will help them face the reality and overcome difficulties in building up hope to rebuild a new life."

Hours after the earthquake and tsunami struck, UNHCR offered sympathy and practical help to Japan. Working with the Foreign Ministry, UNHCR has provided support to both UN efforts and Japan Platform - a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGO), the business community and the government - in managing and collecting information on relief efforts by the NGO community.

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