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Japan's generosity in times of internal disaster and hardship is humbling

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN  Mar 29, 2011

(eTN) - A few weeks ago, it seems ages already, a massive earthquake of 9.0 on the open-ended Richter scale struck off the coast of Japan, causing major damage to the country’ infrastructure, only to be topped by a gigantic tsunami wave, in some areas as high as 30 meters, which swept people, buildings, and in fact all in its way across the plains and fields of that part of Japan, inundating farm land with salt water and worst of all, causing a nuclear catastrophe in a country all too well aware of the power of nukes from the end of the second world war.

Up until today, not all damage to the nuclear reactors has been brought under control, and various explosions have torn through the plant causing radioactive clouds to escape and contaminate people, land, water, food, and the ocean. Food shortages are reported from Japan, embassies have been shifted from Tokyo to other safer cities, and the supply chain to produce and export the country’s famous products has been extensively damaged, leading to major factories of Japan’s leading export brands being shut down due to lack of supplies and deliveries.

Holiday travel from Japan abroad has all but come to a standstill, leaving far-away destinations also suffering from the fallout of economic disruption, and travel into Japan has reduced also to a bare trickle, as holiday plans have been cancelled for fear of radiation contamination, leaving Japan’s resorts, lodges, and hotels to suffer just as much.

Yet, to the surprise of many, here in Eastern Africa, the embassies of Japan have reassured their host countries that bilateral projects already committed would continue to receive financing and support as promised and, in fact, new projects lined up would be dealt with and continue in a normal fashion, in spite of the tragic events back home.

When hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans some years ago, the governments and people of the member states of the East African Community were swift to raise funds and make donations to those in need there who had lost their homes and all possessions. Considering that Japan has just suffered an even more traumatic event ‚Äď and yet has assured us here that their commitments towards our development would not falter, not be dialed back but honored to the fullest extent ‚Äď it is time to dig into our pockets again and show some solidarity.

Galloping inflation, drought, and economically hard times often bring out both the worst but also the best in people, and it can only be hoped that our governments and people can share the little we have here in East Africa to donate to the people of Japan and to reciprocate the generosity over decades from that country by responding to their calamity.

Japan's generosity in times of internal disaster and hardship is humbling
American navy officer hands supplies to a Japanese aid worker / AP photo via

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