12 January 2024 - Japan

Children’s mental health suffers following deadly Japan quake, as many schools stay shut

mental health japan

TOKYO, 12 January 2024 - Children whose lives were disrupted by Japan’s devastating New Year’s Day earthquake have been given a safe place to play in an effort to provide calm and normalcy in their lives as many wait to restart school, Save the Children said. 

Thousands of families lost their homes when the 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck Japan's remote Noto peninsula on New Year’s Day, toppling buildings and sparking a major fire. It was the largest earthquake that the country has seen since the deadly 2011 quake that hit  North East Japan . Many schools in Japan restarted this week following the country’s winter break, but in the hardest-hit cities and towns some schools have not been able to reopen, and authorities are still assessing structural damage following the earthquake and aftershocks. 

Save the Children opened a child-friendly space at an evacuation center in Nanao City, Ishikawa Prefecture, last week giving displaced children a chance to run and play with each other after enduring days of uncertainty and distress following the massive quake and its multiple aftershocks. 

Miyuki Akasaka, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Technical Advisor for Save the Children in Japan, said: 

“In the affected areas, there is a lack of information about children due to the large number of elderly people. Therefore, not having adequate and appropriate child-centered emergency support at this stage may affect children’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. Save the Children provides children and their families with what they need, including by setting up Child Friendly Spaces, which are safe places for children to play and recover. 

“Children in the affected areas need food and shelter and basic support such as a safe place to play, learn, and connect with friends and loved ones. That is the most important part of mental health and psychosocial support.”

The latest disaster has claimed at least 213 lives, according to authorities, and the death toll is expected to rise. Access to affected areas, including the northernmost part of Noto Peninsula, has been hampered by severed road and adverse weather conditions, including  snow and rain.  

Save the Children has also provided emergency children’s kits and soft toys to children at the evacuation shelter in Nanao together with leaflets providing psychological first aid guidance. 

“We are continuing to provide necessary support for children, and we also plan to provide Psychological First Aid training to teachers and childcare providers to prepare them to welcome the children and support their mental health and psychosocial wellbeing before schools and after-school programs resume,” said Akasaka. 

Save the Children Japan was established in 1986. It is active in international programs in fields such as health, nutrition and education. In Japan, Save the Children actively addresses issues of poverty in children.  and responds to large-scale disasters while working with children and their communities on disaster preparedness.    


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