Official Development Assistance (ODA)
"We will never forget you as long as we live.": Japan Medical Team for Disaster Relief (JMTDR) for Bangladesh Cyclone Disaster

Photo (Members of the Japan Medical Team for Disaster Relief)

"We will never forget you as long as we live." With these words, the director of the Tangail General Hospital expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the members of Japan Medical Team for Disaster Relief on the occasion of a special ceremony of appreciation held in their honor. The Team was dispatched to Bangladesh, where the Tangail General Hospital was the base of operations.

On the evening of May 13, 1995, a tropical cyclone suddenly materialized in the state of Tangail District, roughly 120 km northwest of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. In an instant, trees were uprooted and houses were carried off into the air; over 500 people were killed and 34,000 injured amid the terrible destruction.

Japan has in place a system whereby, once a major disaster occurs in another country, the government immediately dispatches physicians, nurses, and coordinating personnel, in the form of a medical team. The team members are volunteers registered with the Japan International Cooperation Agency out of a desire to take part in overseas disaster relief operations. The participants in a given operation are selected from out of the approximately 500 registered volunteers. To assist with relief efforts in Bangladesh, a medical team of 16 was immediately organized among the available registered volunteers, under the instruction of Mr. Hirakawa, assistant director of the International Emergency Relief Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and dispatched to the site of the disaster.

Two days after their arrival as requested by the Bangladeshi Government, in sweltering 40-degree C. heat, the medical team had set up temporary shelters in tents and begun examining patients. Subsequently, they performed surgery on the critically injured in a nearby hospital and then made the rounds of the surrounding villages to examine the sick and injured there. Within ten days, the team had treated some 955 people for their injuries, having performed surgery on 185 of them -- an unparalleled output of energy that elicited great appreciation from the injured.

The duty of the Japan Medical Team for Disaster Relief consists of providing aid to individuals in need. Such activities are limited to the relatively brief period immediately following a disaster, but within those periods there are intense person-to-person interactions and heartfelt exchanges. The members of the Japanese Team were in Bangladesh for only a short while, but their efforts will live on in the hearts of Bangladeshi people for a long time.