Staff Editorial



Japan’s condition is both sobering and disquieting: over 3,500 confirmed deaths, almost 8,000 missing persons, a destroyed infrastructure, and a country on the verge of nuclear meltdown. While the government is tasked with rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, the citizens will be responsible for establishing a post-disaster identity.

In the wake of natural catastrophes of this magnitude, the international community reaches out in support of those in need. Japan, however, is a unique entity.  As the world’s third largest economy, the small island nation was prepared for both disaster and the costly process of rebuilding. With this in mind, the international community must tailor its aid to reflect Japan’s needs.

It is important to customize our aid for two reasons. First, we must ensure we are giving the most effective aid possible. Second, we must allow the Japanese to own their rebuilding process.

Unlike with other natural disasters – Haiti’s 2010 earthquake for instance – exclusively monetary aid is not most needed. Japan has already established their credibility in preparing for and recovering from natural disasters. According to The New York Times, Japan is one of the top five humanitarian donors in the world. Kobe, their fifth-largest city, is deemed a “global model” for rebuilding after a natural disaster. Additionally, in 2005, Japan’s Hyogo Framework for action was the world’s first conference focused on building for disaster resilience.

In short, Japan does not need large quantities of monetary aid. Instead, the country desperately seeks the help of professional aid organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and competent nuclear experts. When choosing an organization to donate to, try to verify that their assistance is in a form that will most benefit Japan and its people, as opposed to organizations that only solicit donations with tragic images.

Though it is difficult, people can unite in the face of tragedy to overcome hardships. Natural disasters like this can be beneficial in strengthening nationality and a shared identity. The Japanese already face an aging populace that looks toward its younger generations to take control. This tragedy can become an opportunity for those younger generations to band together, develop a shared identity and move their country forward.

Instances of this were seen on a smaller scale during the tsunami, when young citizens helped evacuate and rescue older residents. Now, those same efforts must drive the rebuilding process. Moreover, those same younger generations must be supported and encouraged through the process of coping with loss, overcoming economic set-back and rebuilding a shattered infrastructure.

Opportunity is born from chaos and this tragedy will certainly influence Japan’s future. Equally so, opportunity exists in the chance to improve our disaster relief systems. But we must be deliberate with our aid and intentional in our efforts to improve future support for countries suffering natural disasters.