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Japanese Children in Danger

Japan trying to retain normality for the children

 As the tsunami hit her school in Sendai, kindergarten teacher Junko Kamada, 60, stood in front of the window of the second story hall to block the children from seeing the destruction caused by the 1.5 metre wave. Teachers are trying to keep the children occupied rather than keep them in shock from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake on March 11th, that killed three of their 235 pupils aged 3-5. Schools resumed a few days ago in north-eastern Japan and classes – some held in homes and makeshift spaces – are providing children to reunite with friends and keep a level of normality. At least 9,452 people died in the earthquake and tsunami, and radiation leaks from Fukushima’s nuclear power plant Tokyo Electric Power are adding to the stress.

Anxiety is mounting in Tokyo, where authorities are saying tap water may be unsafe for infants. Radioactive iodine levels collected from a sample on March 22nd were double the recommended limit for babies. They are saying that it’s unsafe for any infant under the age of one to drink the tap water. Chiho Hasunuma, 26, who lives in a western Tokyo suburb, stated that she was alerted about the contamination by text message from a friend, who was telling her not to let her five-month-old baby drink tap water.

 “I’ve been very depressed and cried a lot since the earthquake,” Hasunuma said, “But maybe it’s time to stop thinking about it and move to Ehime where a relative lives.”

The emotional consequences for the children are rising high and many will suffer from PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), which may include nightmares, sleeplessness and panic attacks, while younger children will find it harder to articulate their distress. When children suffer from an acute fear, they tend to depend on their mother’s more for support and safety, psychiatrists say, also stating that stress and anxiety may be causing more asthma, mumps and pneumonia in the children.

Britt-Marie Drottz-Sjoberg, a professor of psychology at the Norwegian University of Science quotes:

 “If they know that everything is being done to help them get into some sort of normal situation as soon as possible, I am quite confident that the Japanese society will come through this and rise again. It’s a very resilient culture.”

It also means not succumbing to grief for the teachers, who have taken care of the children and taught them. Junko Kamada said that the teachers are incredibly sad, but are trying desperately to get the school back on its feet, for the protection of the children that are going through turmoil.

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