The following is the article by Ms. Palwasha Arbab, the Program Asssitant at Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan.
Ms. Arbab and Mr. Allan A. Calma, the Deputy Director, Disaster Management Programme, Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan, visited Tohoku from February 12th to 14th this year.
"Bringing Hope to the Mothers in Iwaki"
Radiation is invisible. We can’t see it. And fear of the unknown is worse than that of the known. Mothers and volunteers working at Tarachine, a local organization managed by a group of novices in Iwaki, Tohoku region, realize that emotion shared by the affected communities of the Great East Japan Eathquake 2011.
With this realization they have initiated projects which involve purchasing and using of radiation measurement equipment for the human body, soil, vegetables and most lately, thyroid examination equipment, to help people know what the level of the affect is.
This helps reduce the added worry and concern that parents and particularly mothers have been experiencing about their children’s surroundings and food consumption since the Earthquake.
Tarachine with aid from JEDRO, have so far purchased and ordered equipment that measures radiation and have successfully been using it in Iwaki. They have also organized seminars with specialists speaking on Radioactivity and its effects, for the community. Through one of these seminars, they also learnt about increase in thyroid being a potential long-term effect on children from a specialist on nuclear radiation in Chernobyl.
This small but extremely efficient agency is working on regularly organizing visits to Okinawa (an Island in the southern province of Kumejima) for children and families of the affected communities to rest and breathe out the radiation from the body and soul. As the immune system of these children is believed to be better in areas outside Tohoku, these visits are physically healthy and vital for the community to release stress.
Yoshida, an Iwaki resident and a staff at Tarachine, expressed that even though there is no pre March- 2011 record of thyroid levels in children of the area to compare the post-disaster thyroid examination results with, it is important to measure it consistently to identify any change in levels in the future.
Life for children in Iwaki has become restricted post the Great East Japan Earthquake. Children in Iwaki and their parents now have to think twice before what they choose to eat or drink and where they choose to play.
Yoshida feels that her children have in fact become less fit, their energy levels being low and has observed a significant decrease in their appetite and concentration level. She senses that due to their frustration with not being able to play and live the way they did, they become agitated more easily.
Mothers in the community visiting Tarachine have shared the same feelings and agree that the situation is giving them unnecessary stress. At times, they expressed the extreme concern for the health and safety of their children even leads them to paranoia.
Iwaki, however, is fortunate to home devoted women such as Ms. Kaori Suzuki, founder of Tarachine, and all those volunteering at the Centre. These women genuinely understand the situation and concerns of the people, particularly mothers of the area and with aid from international organizations, such as JEDRO, are striving to fully address them.
At, Tarachine, mothers visit to get themselves, their children and food items regularly examined and they come here to talk about their concerns freely with each other. Here, they feel emotionally at peace. They know they can talk here and have someone listen to them without judging them of being obsessive or paranoid about the risks of nuclear radiation.