The Great East Japan earthquake, which hit Fukushima on 11 March 2011, is proof that nature is a force not to be reckoned with, causing massive destruction and tragedy, even in a disaster-prepared country such as Japan. 5 years ago, the Field Coordination Support Section of the Emergency Services Branch deployed an UNDAC Team to support the Japanese government with information management for an international community and coordinate foreign aid flows, an onslaught of local relief efforts and international humanitarian assistance, as well as to work with the Government on matters related to the deployment of international USAR teams. Virtual OSOCC, the online platform to exchange information in sudden-onset emergencies, was used to post regular updates on USAR teams.

25 years after the nuclear accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine, the devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered an “unimaginable” disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, tearing apart community relationships and leaving over 100,000 people permanently displaced from their homes.As urbanization, industrialization and other factors, such as extreme weather events associated with climate change amplify, so do the risks associated with technological hazards. Chernobyl and Fukushima show that the global humanitarian community must be better equipped to address the potentially long-lasting needs of people at risk from complex and emerging threats associated with so-called technological hazards. Meeting the world’s increasing need for humanitarian assistance will require a radical shift in how the world prepares for and responds to disasters. In his recent report for the World Humanitarian Summit, titled “One Humanity – Shared Responsibility”, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underlined that “success must now be measured by how people’s vulnerability and risk are reduced.” He stressed that national and local systems need to be reinforced, and local leadership and capacities need to be respected and strengthened and not undermined through outside interventions. Such capacity-strengthening must see the humanitarian community partner with local actors in order to ensure communities receive the support and risk information that is essential for them to regain control of their lives.

More on the 5th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake in OCHA HQ’s web story.