Japan: MSF Working in Isolated Community Devastated by Quake

MSF personnel in northeast Japan are working in a small community in Miyagi prefecture and assessing ways to assist the massive relief effort.

Japan 2011 © JIJI PRESS

Scenes of devastation in Miyagi prefecture.

On Tuesday, members of the 11-person Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team in earthquake-battered northeast Japan worked in evacuation centers with local medical staff in a small, isolated community in Miyagi prefecture.

“There were two local doctors in Minamisanriku who have been working in around 20 evacuation centers since the earthquake and tsunami, so team members today assisted them in their consultations,” said Emmanuel Goue, the emergency coordinator of the MSF team.

From Tuesday, MSF staff plan to start a small clinic in another town near Minamisanriku using drugs donated on Monday. Once additional medical resources from the massive Japanese relief effort arrive, MSF will try to find other pockets of communities that may need medical assistance.

Japanese authorities continue to devote enormous resources to the relief operation that began as soon as the tsunamis receded. MSF personnel are divided into three teams conducting mobile clinics and assessments in Miyagi prefecture.

The tsunamis decimated coastal areas, which are now becoming accessible by road due to the efforts of Japanese authorities. "In one area around Minamisanriku, in northern Miyagi, we were told by officials there were 9,200 people in 20 evacuation centers who needed water, non-food items and medical attention,” said Mikiko Dotsu, the coordinator of the MSF team.

Although injured people had been evacuated by helicopter from these areas, many elderly people were still there, some of whom were dehydrated, the coordinator said. “The chronic diseases of some of these elderly people are a cause for concern,” Mikiko said. MSF is now identifying specific needs—including oxygen, non-food items, medical items and water—and will work with Japanese authorities to assist these populations.

More MSF personnel staff are standing by in Japan and other countries to head to Miyagi prefecture to increase our assistance.