The Great East Japan Earthquake

A tale of a devastating natural disaster, a tale of human compassion

The Great East Japan Earthquake cover

The Great East Japan Earthquake of 11 March 2011 will be remembered as one of the worst disasters. To mark its first commemoration, the World Health Organization Western Pacific Regional Office dedicates this publication, “The Great East Japan Earthquake: A story of a devastating natural disaster, a tale of human compassion” to the people of Japan.

The Great East Japan Earthquake tested the ability and role of the newly-established Division of Health Security and Emergencies in the Western Pacific Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) to respond to public health emergencies.

From the start of the disaster and in collaboration with the Government of Japan, WHO used its global network to communicate and coordinate information collection, public health risk assessments and provision of public health advice.

Between 11 March and 6 July 2011, WHO activated its Emergency Operations Centre and produced 35 external situation reports, which were available in English and Japanese. The external situation reports have been posted on WHO websites for easy reference. These reports have been made available in Japanese on the WHO Kobe Centre website. A special edition of the Western Pacific Surveillance and Response Journal was also issued on the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The main sources of information for this publication were the situation reports published by WHO at that time, which were based not only on official information but also on informal sources such as media reports and personal communication in Japanese. A team of dedicated volunteers assisted with data retrieval and translation, capturing the nuances of the culture and the information being reported.

We hope this publication will serve as a useful reference when documenting lessons learnt from the Great East Japan Earthquake, and will become a tool for both Japan and the international community for future disaster response efforts. As we read through this publication, let us remember the people who have lost their lives or their loved ones, and those who, through the adversity, never lost hope and started to rebuild their lives.