Collection and Distribution of Donations

Donations contributed by people amounted to a huge sum of nearly 180 billion yen within only a few months after the Great Hanshin Earthquake. It took, however, over two years for the distribution to be completed in the three installments and this delay reduced the effectiveness of people's good will.

The number of households with their homes totally or partly collapsed or burnt was 467,283 (combining the numbers in Hyogo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokushima prefectures together), and the total sum of donations was 179.247 billion yen. Therefore it was possible to distribute about 380,000 yen per household at an early stage. The problem was in the distribution policy.

The Committee for Raising Donations for the Great Hanshin Earthquake was set up on January 25, 1995, consisting of 26 institutions including the Japan Red Cross Hyogo Prefectural Branch, the Hyogo prefectural government, the Kobe municipal government, and mass media. This Committee was to be in charge of everything concerned with the donations from collection to management, and to framing a distribution plan.

The committee made the basic policy for distributing the donation money as follows; (1) a donation is a gift of sympathy and should not be considered as compensation for individuals, (2) The number of those who are to receive the donation money cannot but be limited when the total sum of the donations and the total number of disaster-hit people are taken into consideration, because almost all the residents in the quake-hit area were affected by the disaster to some degree, and (3) Taking the above (1) and (2) into account, priority should be given to those who incurred especially serious damage and those in need of support for living, education and housing.

Traditional Disaster Relief Aid Counting on Donation Money

Disaster relief aid before the earthquake had been somehow operated based on the Disaster Relief Act and other laws concerning condolence money provision, etc., with supply in kind, money gift and loan, and donation money. The central government, also, announced promptly after the disaster that compensation for individuals should not be approvable. The committee established the above-stated policy (1) and (2) under such circumstances. It is obvious that the traditional relief aid has been considered in expectation of donation money, which is a token of the good will of the people.

The total amount of donations should have been distributed at the time of the first distribution of 100,000 yen per household with the home totally or partially collapsed or burnt based on the same criteria.

The Donation Management Guideline by the Japan Red Cross

The Japan Red Cross compiled a report on October 15, 1996, taking into account that concerning the donation money "many opinions and complaints about the criteria, method and period of distribution were sent, not only to the Committee for Donations Raising but also to the Japan Red Cross and other institutions." It was followed by the creation of the Donation Management Guideline in July, 1998, based on the report. The Guideline enunciated three principles; promptness, transparency, and fairness, reflecting the experience of the earthquake.

Immediate Distribution on the Basis of Equality and Promptness

The donation money in the future should be distributed immediately and impartially based on the criteria that was used in the first distribution after the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Regardless of the donations, it is responsibility of the central and local governments to support the disaster-affected people's recovery.

The Disaster Management Basic Law provides in its article 1 that "the national and local governments and other public institutions" are to "protect national land and people's life, body and property from disasters." Lately the governments have been emphasizing on self-help, mutual-aid, and public-aid. What has been most needed and desired, however, is not the reliance on mutual-aid or assertion of self-help, but the public-aid -- not the 70 trillion yen which has been poured into banks, but public-aid for disaster-hit people.

(DEGUCHI Toshikazu)