mainichi shinbun

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10,000 Fukushima children still live outside prefecture after disaster, mainichi, 3/3/2016

original article: http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160303/p2g/00m/0dm/075000c

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — Some 10,000 children whose families fled Fukushima Prefecture because of the March 2011 nuclear disaster have yet to return, prefectural government officials said Thursday.

Five years after the earthquake and ensuing tsunami triggered the radiation crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, families with children continue to have serious reservations about environmental safety, according to a recent survey by the prefectural government.

As of last October, the number of such minors who have evacuated to areas outside the prefecture stood at 10,557. Among them, 4,760 were from 12 coastal municipalities designated as evacuation zones in the nuclear crisis, the survey said. The prefecture has 59 municipalities.

With young people absent from those areas, reconstruction may be difficult in the future, experts say.

“We need to implement more measures to improve the child-rearing environment (for their parents) to enable those children to return home” because the children are with their families, a prefectural government official of the children and youth division said.

The prefectural government has allocated subsidies to make medical costs free for children under 18 since October 2012. Since last year, the local government subsidizes moving expenses for those evacuees who want to return to their hometowns.

Some families are estimated to have transferred their resident registration to the municipalities to which they have fled, most likely making the actual number of evacuee minors from Fukushima higher, prefectural government officials said.

There were about 18,000 child evacuees as of April 2012. The number gradually declined after evacuation orders for some municipalities were lifted because radiation doses have dropped due to decontamination works. As of Feb. 1, the prefecture’s population stood at around 1.91 million.

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Students hit hard by 2011 disasters suffer poverty, lose educational chances: survey, mainichi, 12/1/2015

original article: http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20151201/p2a/00m/0na/001000c

An organization providing educational support to children who were affected by the triple disasters of March 2011 released a report Nov. 30 indicating that households in which the father is either unemployed or is on short-term employment contracts have doubled compared to pre-disaster numbers.

Many students thus said they believe they will have to give up going to college or graduate school due to family finances.

The white paper, which investigated children’s poverty and gaps in educational environments and resources, was compiled by Chance for Children, a public interest incorporated association based in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, based on a survey it conducted from May to September 2014. The organization received responses from 2,338 households who were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, to whom they have offered assistance. According to the organization, this marked the first time a survey of this scale was conducted regarding children’s educational circumstances in areas directly affected by such massive disasters.

The report showed that 13.1 percent of fathers in the surveyed disaster areas were either unemployed or short-term contract employees, about double the 6.3 percent recorded prior to March 2011. Conversely, regular employment suffered a drop of 9.4 percentage points, down to 78.5 percent. The percentage of households with a yearly income of less than 2.5 million yen jumped by 8.5 percentage points compared to pre-March 11, 2011 figures, to 36.9 percent.

Asked what their ideal educational trajectories were, 56.2 percent of third-year junior high school students who responded to the survey said they wanted to attend “university or more (graduate school).” However, asked what they believed was realistic, only 44.3 percent said “university or more (graduate school),” showing an 11.9-percentage point gap between ideal and realistic educational goals. Some 13.4 percent of students cited tight household finances as the main reason for this gap. In a similar survey taken of students and their parents in fiscal 2011, only 4.3 percent of students pointed to household finances as a factor in choosing realistic educational paths, illustrating a rise in the proportion of students being forced to choose “realistic” educational paths that run counter to their own wishes.

Meanwhile, a look at the income of households with junior high or high school students who have refused to go to school showed that the lower the income, the greater the likelihood that students refuse to attend school. Students coming from households with an annual income of less than 1 million yen accounted for 17.9 percent of students with a history of truancy. A greater number of students from low-income households also said that they felt they did not have a place where they felt safe, or that they had experienced suicidal tendencies.

“The effects of the 2011 disasters are seen not only in education, but also in everyday life and elsewhere, and their multiple causes — such as household finances and interpersonal relationships — are intertwined,” says Chance of Children’s representative director Yusuke Imai. “The central government, local governments and communities must collaborate to support students by expanding (non-loan) scholarships and institutionalizing a system of social workers specializing in children.”

Fukushima Pref. looking to end free rent for voluntary disaster evacuees in 2017, mainichi, 6/16/15

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150616p2a00m0na015000c.html

The Fukushima Prefectural Government, aiming to encourage residents to return to areas they evacuated after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, announced on June 15 its intention to end free rent for voluntary evacuees in March 2017, while continuing to provide limited support for a time.

Among such evacuees are families living in poverty, and the prefectural government intends to listen to the needs of these families while deciding on the details of its policy.

Many voluntary evacuees are living in private apartments, and their rent is free. Just like with forced evacuees from areas with evacuation orders placed on them, voluntary evacuees have had their free rent extended on a yearly basis, in accordance with the Disaster Relief Act.

At a press conference on June 15, Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori said, “The construction of publically-managed recovery homes (for evacuees) has made progress, and it will be difficult to maintain the emergency aid being offered under the Disaster Relief Act.”

As replacements for free rent, some measures the prefecture plans to offer evacuees include: financial assistance starting this fiscal year for moving into Fukushima Prefecture; financial rent assistance for low-income evacuees starting in fiscal 2017 and lasting a few years; and preparation of publically-managed homes both in and out of the prefecture for evacuees to move into. The prefecture will seek financial assistance from the national government in order to provide these services.

Starting in July, the prefectural government plans to open consultation meetings in regions with large numbers of voluntary evacuees regarding lifestyle support and returning to evacuated areas.

“We will think of a framework that allows us to respond to everyone’s individual wishes. We want to enrich the contents of our support policies,” said Gov. Uchibori.

The exact number of voluntary evacuees is unknown, but at the end of last year, the Fukushima Prefectural Government estimated there were 25,000 people, across 9,000 households. Five thousand, across 2,000 households, are believed to be in the prefecture, and 20,000, across 7,000 households, are believed to be outside of the prefecture. This year the Fukushima Prefectural Government and the central government, which pays for the free evacuee rent, have been in talks about how much longer to extend the free rent. Since last month, the prefectural government has been exchanging opinions with municipalities with voluntary evacuees in them. The Fukushima government reached the conclusion that, with radiation decontamination work having moved forward and living conditions in evacuated areas improving, in order to encourage evacuees to move back and become independent it is necessary to end the free rent.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government has also decided for now to set the end of the residing period for forced evacuees living in temporary housing structures at March 2017, with what to do after then to be dependent on factors including whether evacuation orders on restricted areas have been lifted.

Only 40% of gov’t subsidies for Tohoku disaster projects spent, mainichi, 3/26/2015

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Only 40.5 percent of government subsidies granted to reconstruction-related projects by municipalities and other entities in Japan between fiscal 2011 and 2013 was used as planned, a review by the Board of Audit of Japan showed Monday.

A total of 3.4 trillion yen ($28.38 billion) was extended to 102 projects during the period for a wide range of areas such as housing, medical services, nursing care and welfare. But only 1.3 trillion yen was spent as of the end of fiscal 2013, as some projects were not carried out as initially planned, or may have been overfunded in the first place.

The Board of Audit of Japan said the finding is not necessarily problematic, given that reconstruction projects need multiple years to be completed. But the body, which checks state expenditures, urged the central government to “examine whether the scale of such projects is appropriate.”

Japan marks the fourth anniversary on March 11 of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wreaked havoc on the Tohoku region in the country’s northeast, but reconstruction is far from complete.

Six projects saw their granted subsidies unused, including one to extend low-interest loans to disaster victims to build and repair houses, partly because it took time to reorganize town lots and prepare them on higher ground.

In the three hardest hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima alone, 50.9 percent of 1.7 trillion yen in state subsidies granted to 62 projects was used.

The review also found a combined 136 billion yen allocated for 32 disaster-related projects had been returned to the state by the end of March 2014.

Roughly 90 percent of the amount, or 123 billion yen, was given back as the government tightened control over the use of subsidies for reconstruction amid revelations that some subsidies had been diverted to other purposes.

Japan allocated 25.1 trillion yen in reconstruction-related budget from fiscal 2011 to 2013 including the subsidies granted, with around 20.1 trillion yen, or 80.1 percent, spent, according to the board. The rate compares with 77.2 percent in the previous survey that covered fiscal 2011 and 2012.

Around 3 trillion yen was left unspent on such projects as rebuilding of public and medical facilities and removal of waste produced after the Fukushima nuclear crisis, as projects were delayed due to poor coordination, according to the report.

Blue carp streamers fill sky in disaster-hit city, mainichi, 5/7/14

The many streamers over the city’s Omagarihama district included about 100 new ones sent from across the country as a gesture of sympathy for Higashimatsushima’s losses in the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The new streamers joined around 500 flown in years past.

The event was launched by 21-year-old Kento Ito, who lived in the Omagarihama district at the time of the disasters and lost four family members including a 5-year-old brother to the waves.

“I want to live positively,” with the encouragement of the people who donated the carp streamers in his heart, he said.

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