The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article on international relief to Japan this morning:
“International relief organizations are raising donations, delivering water and blankets, and setting up children’s centers to aid victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
But compared with last year’s earthquake in Haiti or the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people, they are holding back much of their most ambitious aid-giving.
They say that is partly because Japan, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, has the ability to deal with the disaster’s aftermath largely on its own—and partly because the government hasn’t asked for much aid from many groups.”
The Japanese government worries that a volunteer influx could exacerbate existing shortages in a still-volatile area. Unlike Haiti, Japan already has a well-established infrastructure and a vigorous and highly trained network of Red Cross volunteers:
“… the Japanese Red Cross has as many as 1,000 medical people on the ground and can draw from two million trained local volunteers, ranging from cooks to helicopter pilots.”
The article states that 113 countries have offered aid, but to date Japan has only accepted help from 14 countries – primarily for search-and-rescue assistance. Due to the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, the U.S. military already has a major presence in Japan with over 60 camps, bases, forts, airfields, and auxiliary facilities. Like the Japanese Red Cross, these units are well-established and self-supporting, which makes them easier to include in relief efforts. Multiple U.S. military branches are providing search-and-rescue flights, relief supply flights, and a floating refueling station for military and civilian rescuers on the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group. Some Marines are already on the ground, with an additional 2200 from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit on their way.
However, many people in difficult to access regions still face severe shortages and lack basics like food, water, and medicine. It’s hard to watch entire cities swept out to sea on video without wanting to jump up and lend a hand. While Japan isn’t looking for international volunteer teams right now, resources already at work on the ground badly need supplies and funding as they meet basic needs. Please consider a donation to the Japanese Red Cross efforts. Google has set up a site for donations at http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/japanquake2011.html.