AMDA International Conference for Asian Chapters took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Dec. 1st and 2nd. The participants of the conference included AMDA chapter representatives from 11 Asian countries, the delegation from GPSP Philippines and staff from AMDA Headquarters. The main theme of the conference was “Mission of Sogo-Fujo” which encompasses five pillars of present AMDA activities, namely Global Partnership for Sustainable Peace(GPSP), Asia Network for Disaster, Medical Platform for the Global Community, AMDA Platform for Great Natural Disasters in Japan, and Triple A Partnership Program.
New Form of Medical Collaboration
Today, due to the eastward shift of the world’s wealth, many Asian nations have achieved significant economic growth resulting in the uplift of health-care awareness level and upgrading of their national medical care system. A good example would be the case of Nepal. When Nepal was hit by a deadly earthquake this April, Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, the stronghold of the nation’s health-care system , had declined assistance from overseas,
The earthquake that hit Nepal on Apr. 25th has been a grim reminder of the human fragility against the power of recurring natural disasters.
The death toll largely due to the collapsed buildings has kept increasing and it has topped 8,600 as of mid-May and the number of affected people is said to be more than 4.2 million.
The traditional brick-buildings in the densely populated capital account for the mass casualty of the earthquake. Water supply and sewer systems were destroyed by the devastating tremor creating poor sanitary condition deteriorated further by the lack of food and water.
AMDA's 30th Anniversary
This year I would like to start the new year by extending my profound gratitude to all my friends and supporters. AMDA celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. Nobody could have imagined that a simple aspiration of a young man would develop into a well-established international NGO with 30 chapters and numerous partners around the world. It took 30 years of unfaltering commitment and assistance by the entire AMDA community, its partners and supporters. It is the spirit of "Open Sogo-Fujo"* that has united these people of various backgrounds to help people in need. No word can be enough to thank all friends and donors who have made AMDA what it is today.
Last November, Japan Medical Association asked me to write an article on disaster relief activities. In this article I have touched on the concept of 'professional freedom' in the medical field. This was the life-long philosophy of one of our former presidents of Japan Medical Association. Much has been said on this topic but I believe that 'professional freedom' calls for proactive action that comes from the autonomy each medical doctor is entitled to. It is proactive freedom, freedom to act on one's conscience and reason in order to save lives and build healthy community around the world.
AMDA & AMSA
Youthful energy permeated the Asian Medical Students Conference, in short AMSC, which took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this summer. As the founder of AMSC, I had the honor of addressing the audience at the conference. AMDA and AMSA share the same origin. Though the story has been told on many occasions, when explaining about AMSA, the story is virtually inevitable. It was in 1979 when I along with two medical students was dispatched to Thailand by a Japanese organization of medical students. Our mission was to offer medical assistance to Cambodians who at that time fled their own country to escape to the refugee camps in Thailand. As a complete novice in the field of international humanitarian assistance, without any reliable reference or local contact, we were not only denied the opportunity of carrying out our mission but were not even allowed to visit the camp. The disheartening experience led to the establishment of Asian Medical Students’ Conference in 1980, and later in 1984 to the formation of Asian network of medical professionals, known as AMDA, Association of Medical Doctors of Asia, and AMSA, Association of Medical Students of Asia. To do good in our community, whether local, regional or global, we need the network of those sharing in the same spirit. This is the root upon which these two organizations were built.
Thinking about food
Food and human life are inseparable. Food is a source of life. It is the basic substance along with water that sustains human life. Food, thus, is linked to various predicaments of the present world. The right to food is a humanitarian issue. Climate change, population growth, water supply, environment, food safety, food security, and many other phenomena relating to food address an array of international, governmental, scientific and social issues.
Peace Program in Bangladesh
In a tiny village, called Mahamuni, nestled in the countryside of Roan Upazila of Chittagong District of Bangladesh, there is an orphanage which began in the early 70's in the aftermath of Bangladesh's War of Independence. In 1971, the late Rev. Tenjo Watanabe, a Buddhist priest from Japan, traveled to this remote area of Bangladesh to deliver relief items to the people victimized by the War. Witnessing the plight of the widows and orphans, Rev. Watanabe set up a welfare center for these victims and managed an orphanage until his death in 2002. Since then this institution has been funded and managed by a Buddhist group from Japan. At present with the help from Buddhist sponsors from Japan the management of the orphanage is in the hand of a local resident who was once an orphan himself at this institution.
Asia Sogo-Fujo Network for Emergency Relief
AMDA's conference on "Asian Sogo-Fujo Network for Emergency Relief" has successfully completed all its agendas on April 18th, 2013. I believe all the participants including the representatives from 14 Asian regions have returned home with renewed sense of unity. It is truly a great honor to share ideas on emergency relief and associate with people of various backgrounds each representing organizations highly esteemed and admired in their respective communities. I would like to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to our sponsors, Toyota Foundation and Mitsubishi UFJ Foundation, for giving us this valuable opportunity.
Global Partnership for Sustainable Peace
Living in the age of uncertainties politically, economically and socially with the ever increasing natural threats, AMDA has continually sought its own ways to realize and sustain peace in the world. Next year AMDA will be celebrating its 30th anniversary since its inception in 1984. Yes, we have come a long way and we are still growing as a humanitarian organization together with our friends, supporters and partners around the world. For the past few years I have pondered over the course AMDA should take in the future. I have developed my thoughts on sogo-fujo and other essential values of our organization to a more comprehensive and inclusive system which I have named "Global Partnership for Sustainable Peace". It is a stepped-up version of what we have achieved since our inception. "Global Partnership for Sustainable Peace" aims to realize peaceful coexistence of diversity in which ordinary people can sustain decent living and realize their hopes for tomorrow.
Peace in Action
Like many people around the world, I have welcomed the new year with a prayer for world peace. Thus I feel it is most appropriate to start the first message of this year by writing about Hiroshima. Though I have been a resident of Okayama City most of my life, I was born and raised in Fukuyama, a city in Hiroshima Prefecture located about 100km east of Hiroshima City. Needless to say, Hiroshima City is best known for the first atomic bomb in the world which was dropped on the city by the US Army Air Forces on Aug. 6th, 1945, toward the end of World War II. The devastation and suffering the atomic bombing brought to the city of Hiroshima and its resident are so terrifying that it is simply beyond words. Since then Hiroshima has become the strongest proponent of abolition of nuclear weapons campaigning for lasting world peace without nuclear weapons.
Embracing Diversity—A Key to Peace
With the end of the year quickly approaching, I take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude for your interest and support for AMDA. This has been another year of AMDA’s achievements and successes in emergency relief, post-disaster rehabilitation, medical training, sports and cultural exchange programs for youth, and in many other areas of activities.
Japan-Mongolia Friendship Hospital
In August, I had the opportunity of visiting Mongolia and attending the opening ceremony of Japan-Mongolia Friendship Hospital. Years ago Dr. Magvannorov Oyunchimeg was studying at Tokyo University when she attended my lecture on AMDA's humanitarian activities. Highly motivated by AMDA's humanitarian efforts, she established AMDA Mongolia in 2000 and twelve years later last month she has successfully opened Japan- Mongolia Friendship Hospital. This hospital in Mongolia is the third of its kind. The first Friendship Hospital was built in Bangladesh back in 1994 by Dr. Sarder A. Nayeem and his colleagues who had earned their Ph.D. in Japan. Japan-Bangladesh Friendship Hospital has now become one of the leading hospitals in Dhaka. The second of this kind was founded in Afghanistan in 2010 by Dr. Rahimi.
In Memory of Yadanar Oo
During my recent visit to Myanmar I was finally able to meet with the family of the late Yadanar Oo. Yadanar Oo was born in 1994, to a family of farmers in a small village nearby Meiktila, Myanmar. She was born with a congenital heart defect. Her condition required surgical operation which her circumstances could not provide at that time. However, Yadanar Oo was lucky enough to catch the attention of one of our AMDA staff in charge of mobile clinic in the region. AMDA worked to get funding from a foundation set up by a Japanese newspaper company, Sankei Shinbun, with the sole purpose of saving children of serious diseases in need of surgical operations.
Traditional Medicine in Post-Disaster Areas
I always had a great interest in the traditional medicine and this interest still keeps growing as its potential has become too big to ignore these days. Traditional medicine, in many countries, is often termed “complementary” or “alternative” as it is used in combination with the conventional (western) medicine. Whether it is Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Unani, Korean medicine, etc., each has its own systematic and logical method of application though more clinical evidence is needed to support their effectiveness and safety. AMDA’s association with traditional medicine has a long history along with my professional interest in the field. Today, however, I would like to stick to one area of traditional medicine, namely acupuncture, and its role in rehabilitating people in the post-disaster Tohoku region of Japan.
Water is an integral part of human existence. It is a vital substance to all known forms of life. Yet water can be also very destructive. With the global warming of recent years, water-related disasters are increasing in intensity and frequency. Extensive flooding like the ones we have seen in the areas of South East Asia, including Thailand and Philippines over the past few months, have claimed numerous lives and resulted in serious health, social and economic consequences.
Force of Local Community in Tohoku Region
In a few days Japan will be observing the first anniversary of the triple disaster that hit the eastern part of the country on Mar. 11, last year. The days and months after the 9.0-magnitutde earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent nuclear disaster were probably one of the darkest moments in the nation’s history. As we approach the first anniversary of the tragic disaster, we look upon the past year with sorrow for the lives we have lost, compassion for the survivors, gratitude for all the concerns and assistance that have come within Japan and from all over the world. Almost a year after the disaster thousands of people are still struggling to rebuild their lives and communities. People of Tohoku are now treading a very arduous path to recovery.
What these affected community and its people need most at this stage of rehabilitation is truly local-oriented measures. In this sense, the most effective and timely recovery measures can be best proposed and implemented by the affected community and the people themselves. It is the local force that should set the wheels in motion toward recovery.
The Power of Ordinary People
A massive earthquake struck the south-eastern part of Turkey on Sunday Oct. 23 causing more than 600 deaths and injuring 4100 people. Together with the people of Japan as well as members of AMDA International, I would like to express heartfelt condolences to the victims and offer prayers for the quick recovery of the afflicted area. AMDA in collaboration with KimseYokmu carried out medical relief activities for the injured in Ercis right after the disaster.
Building Sustainable Peace through Sports
Building sustainable peace is a multi-faceted process that requires specialized skills and comprehensive efforts over a long period of time. It also involves studying and transmitting to future generations the art of peace that transcends all types of differences and disparities. I find sports to be the perfect means for this purpose. Sports carry ubiquitous set of values that fosters dialogue, brotherhood and respect. AMDA has been implementing sports program for the youths since last year. The first project of this kind took place in the Dominican Republic in August 2010 in which the Dominican, Haitian and Japanese junior high school students got together in sports and cultural exchanges.
Hope for Tomorrow, Building the Future of the Community in Tohoku
On March 29, barely 3 weeks into the relief efforts and amidst the fluid situation coping with the unprecedented natural disaster, members from AMDA Indonesia, MERCY of Malaysia, Bangkok General Hospital of Thailand, Medipeace from Korea and AMDA Headquarters met with local representatives. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss overseas contribution and how to maximize the fund to ensure a sustainable recovery. The meeting took place in a classroom at Otsuchi High School which was one of the designated evacuation centers in Iwate. Prior to the meeting, all the members present at the meeting had spent a few days with the disaster victims at the evacuation shelters. As experts in the disaster relief activities they realized that what these victims needed most, along with the immediate relief, is the hope for tomorrow.
Sogo-Fujo at Its Best
Six months have passed since the East Japan Earthquake. It was undoubtedly one of the most horrifying natural disasters of the past few decades. AMDA, one of the first to reach the disaster region, has been actively engaged in emergency relief and rehabilitation efforts since 12 March 2011. We have witnessed the utter despair in the human helplessness against the unthinkable power of nature. At the same time we have seen the strength and courage of the people of Tohoku in their effort to rise above this crisis.
Today the stark reality of the disaster looms heavy over the directly affected disaster region. What have been left from the destructive tsunami remains untouched since 11 March 2011 with the debris and sludge still on the ground. The pace of recovery is slow while the local economy struggles with high unemployment rate and restructuring of local business that were completely destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. Life is hard on the people. They are in endless mourning for their families and friends who did not survive the disaster. But they are fighting with all their power to rise above this hard and trying time. What sustain these people are people, people within their community as well as people from the outside.
CitizensEDiplomacy Paving a New Way in Humanitarian Aids
As we have moved from the 20th to the 21st century, a great paradigm shift has taken place in the minds of people. The 20th century can be termed age of big ideologies. During the last century people risked their life for the sake of their ideologies. Compared to the “bigEideologies that have dominated the previous century, the 21st century is an age of “smallEhearts. By “smallE I mean the private citizens and their families which are small in scale compared to the big ideologies, respective governments, and imposing organizations of the past century. This shift from “bigEto “smallEhave also affected the way these people, particularly the private citizens, participate in social activities. Instead of choosing legitimate organizations to represent their will, they now prefer to directly participate in the actions.
In the midst of the chain of disasters that struck various parts of Asia and the Pacific toward the end of September, a piece of Japanese classic literature came to my mind. It is called “Tsurezuregusa” or “Essays in Idleness” in English. In this personal journal, the Buddhist priest Kenko noted down his thoughts, observations, and anecdotes that seemed worthy of preservation.
In its 117th essay, he writes about three kinds of men who make desirable friends. “First is the friend who gives you things; second, a doctor; and third, the friend with wisdom.”
It is the earlier part of the sentence that catches my attention whenever I think of different types of giving that take place in times of emergency relief efforts.
Community Peace Building through Public Health Projects
Today, I would like to introduce our attempt at fostering a mutual trust among the people of Sri Lanka through public health measures. When public health measures are administered properly and efficiently, they can be very powerful tools. They not only contribute to the general health but also help to promote community building.
In 2003, when the peace treaty was established between Sinhalese and Tamils, the Japanese government asked AMDA to join its peace-building initiative. Their request was to equally support each ethnic group. Accordingly, we came up with the unique method of rebuilding peace using public health measures. We named our project “AMDA Peace Building Project through Health”, known as AMDA-PBP.
At International Conference on Emergency Relief Activities in SAARC Countries
Today, we live in a very small world. Our lives are interconnected and interlinked at various levels. Polluted air is not contained in the originating area but wind carries it freely to all the countries around. In the same manner, financial failure in one country leaves many scars on other countries as well. Conventional methods of coping with problems are no longer effective in this age of global community. All the predicament of today must be explored in a global perspective.
Disaster of today must also be dealt with in a global term not just because of the scale and scope of recent disasters but also from the immediate and distant effects this has on the whole community we live in. We don’t just look at our immediate stakeholders but must look beyond, thinking of our distant stakeholders living on the opposite side of the globe.
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