Japan: MSF starts medical activities in the area of Minami-aso after Kumamoto Quake

It has been almost a week since the earthquakes, but the ground still shakes now and then in Kumamoto and Oita prefecture, Japan. As of 20 April, the number of people displaced sits at around 103,000 in Kumamoto and around 600 in Oita. It is estimated that to-date 58 people have died and around 1,100 people have been injured in the two prefectures; the authorities are still searching for those unaccounted for. Due to heavy rains on the 21 April and the subsequent risk of landslides, some 240,000 people have been advised to evacuate 19 cities, towns and villages in Kumamoto and Oita.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team travelled to Kumamoto prefecture on 17 April, and identified a severe lack of basic healthcare in Minami-aso village because houses and medical facilities there were severely damaged and people are living in shelters since 14 April. On 20 April, MSF visited temporary shelters set up in each area of the village to assess their hygiene conditions and to get first-hand accounts of the current situation. The team made suggestions for improvements to the shelters.

Also MSF has had a role as a referent for paediatric care in Minami-aso area because there are no paediatricians in this area. One of shelters visited by the MSF team was in Minami-aso Nishi Elementary School, where five families with young children are currently staying. “It’s reassuring to know we have a paediatrician here,” said a mother of two young children who was visiting her hometown from the UK when the earthquake struck.

MSF supported the opening of a clinic

In the Hakusui local government office in Minami-aso, the MSF team supported other organisation on the opening of a clinic, based on MSF’s experience responding in emergencies. This clinic opened on 20 April and shelters in the surrounding area were notified.

MSF also provided medical examinations in the evacuation centre in Tateno district in northern Minami-aso, where largely impassable roads make it hard for people to reach medical care. In addition, MSF finished setting up a tent clinic on 20 April. However, as a result of heavy rain and the threat of landslides, all the people in the evacuation centre were forced to move to Ozu town. MSF will visit Ozu to support them and also review the clinic plan.

The MSF team working in the area hit by the Kumamoto earthquake is made up of three doctors, three nurses, a pharmacist, a psychologist, a logistician and an administrator.