Heller Profiles

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Akiko Mera

Japan • Executive Director, Oxfam Japan

MA-SID '05

The Impact of Heller Alumni around the World: Japan

Akiko Mera leads Oxfam Japan's response to earthquake

Fall 2011

When a severe earthquake and tsunami struck the northeast coast of Japan on March 11, Akiko Mera jumped into action. As head of Oxfam Japan, Mera got ready to tap the international organization's strong overseas partnerships to help. "We have received so much generosity from all around the world," Mera says. "This has reminded us once again that we are all vulnerable -- some more than others -- and that we all have a role to play to change things."

Having personally experienced the Kobe earthquake in 1995, Mera had an idea of what to expect and what would need to be done.

"That experience helped me make the right decisions immediately after the 2011 earthquake," says Mera, who estimates it will take at least 20 years for the country to fully recover. "I think everyone in Japan was affected in one way or another -- I never thought I would experience food/water supply shortage in Tokyo. And now we are fighting something we cannot see -- radiation."

It is a testament to Japan's own extensive emergency relief capabilities that a fullscale Oxfam emergency response has so far not been requested. The massive operation has been executed efficiently by a collaboration of the government, the army and civil society.

"The Japanese state has the means to reach 99 percent of the population," Mera says, "but there will always be some who need more specific assistance." Oxfam Japan, a relatively small and fairly new affiliate to the confederation, is raising money for several local organizations active in the disaster areas.

"There are no boundaries in disasters. Now is the time to put people together -- those who work in disasters and those who work to fight against poverty. I believe putting these people together will result in better reconstruction efforts and a better, sustainable future for all."

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