Voluntary Sector: Charities stretched in Japan

Comms staff brief world media in wake of devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Aid charities have sent scores of staff to Japan to liaise with the media as news teams from around the world set up camp in the ruins of north eastern towns and cities.

Since the earthquake on 11 March and resulting tsunami devastated the country, a stretched Red Cross comms unit has placed three English-speaking spokespeople in Japan to deal with media briefings on the ground.

For the past week, Patrick Fuller, British Red Cross comms manager for the Asia Pacific region, has been based around Sendai. Media manager Mark South said: 'Patrick has been sleeping in a tent in freezing conditions and fielding calls pretty much non-stop from English-speaking media around the world - including major UK news.'

PROs like Fuller are working alongside 115 response teams providing first aid and emergency healthcare. The Red Cross is tying its comms activities in with other charities through the International Red Cross movement.

The British Red Cross' comms operation has also been supporting members of the public, companies and celebrities who are organising events to raise money for Japan. 'The sheer scale of the human tragedy has meant that the situation has stayed in the headlines, and our spokespeople on the ground have been a key source of information for press around the world,' added South.

Meanwhile, Plan International sent in its own photographer-cum-videographer to hook up with the charity's operations team last weekend. A Bangkok-based regional comms manager arrived at the same time.

Plan International's aid will focus on providing child care and protection programmes through Japanese NGOs and local authorities in the Sendai region.

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