Response to Japan's Triple Disaster

On Friday, March 11, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated parts of northern Japan. The most powerful quake ever recorded in Japan, this event triggered a tsunami that devastated the coastal areas of Tohoku and southern Hokkaido. As a result of the massive scale earthquake with major urban destruction, number of tsunamis, and major disruption of nearby nuclear power plants, the citizens of northern Japan are experiencing a humanitarian crisis unforeseen in the history of modern Japan. While Japan’s earthquake and disaster preparedness capacity is the most sophisticated in the world, the magnitude of the disaster has created a situation that exposes several difficulties in the coordination of a response and the management of large populations displaced by the crisis.


The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has a significant history of engagement with Japanese colleagues in the areas of emergency health and disaster systems development. In addition to the relief team (composed entirely of Japanese emergency medical experts) to the disaster site, HHI's ongoing Program on Humanitarian Effectiveness works to develop emergency medical education and leadership and hospital-based disaster response. These activities are documented in the report below.


phase 1 report japan

Emergency Response in Japan: Phase 1 Report

As a major part of this ongoing effort to support, evaluate, and improve disaster response in Japan, HHI's Emergency and Disaster Response Capacity Development Project has completed an initial evaluation of critical needs in Northern Japan as a means to learn from the triple disaster and strengthen Japan's disaster response structure. Part I of this report chronicles the direct activities HHI has supported in the wake of the Triple Disaster; Part II offers recommendations for further collaboration.

While the Japanese engineering and civil preparedness is highly adapted to earthquake and tsunami preparedness, there is a lack of deep experience in management of hospital and medical resources for displaced populations. HHI is currently working with the Kobe Center for Health Development to enhance urban health assessment tools that can be adapted to urban disaster management. In addition, Harvard University is working in many settings with academics in Japan, and can be leveraged to support engagement into disaster recovery and future preparedness. HHI and many members of the Harvard community are committed to supporting the ongoing recovery efforts in Japan.

For more in-depth information on the ongoing recovery efforts on the ground in Japan, visit HHI's Technical Assistance page.