The Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan was a milestone global sporting event for Asia, rugby, and the role of sport in development for the region. 

The partnership between World Rugby and ChildFund was an integral part of the Impact Beyond 2019 legacy strategy, highlighting the power of rugby to create social change for children and youth across the region.

However, it should not be forgotten that the global spectacle was hit by tragedy in the form of Typhoon Hagibis, which devastated Japan in October 2019. In response to this impact and disruption, the global rugby family came together to support a united front, and as part of this, ChildFund’s partnership with World Rugby played a part in supporting the response.

Typhoon Hagibis: Japan Rugby World Cup 2019

On 10 October 2019, Typhoon Hagibis made landfall in Japan during Rugby World Cup 2019. Following intensive rainfall and gale-force winds that caused major floods and landslides in the central and northern regions of Japan, close to 100 people tragically lost their lives.

The devastating extreme weather event also caused injuries to hundreds more. Over 70,000 homes were either destroyed or seriously damaged, leaving thousands without proper shelter at the time.

Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency stated that at least 91 people were confirmed dead, 3 were missing, and 376 people injured.

In the aftermath, the Japanese Government established more than 100 evacuation centres across 10 prefectures in response to the tragedy, to assist affected communities.

How did the ChildFund and World Rugby Partnership Assist During the Recovery?

ChildFund worked in partnership with Japanese government ministries and agencies to respond to the immediate needs of impacted families. The response plan focused on child protection and supporting the elderly in Nagano.

Nineteen months on from the tragic events of Typhoon Hagibis, we are proud to retrospectively highlight some of the initiatives ChildFund was involved in as a result of the Rugby World Cup 2019 partnership. 

These plans were put into practice and made possible through the network and partnerships ChildFund had established working with the global rugby community leading up to Rugby World Cup 2019 and were implemented in partnership with the Shanti Volunteer Association.

Support in Nagano

Nagano Prefecture is home to one of Japan’s largest rivers, the Chikuma. The typhoon damaged the levees, resulting in severe flooding and significant displacement of the community. 

Following a rapid needs assessment, which identified an urgent need for non-food items and psychosocial support, ChildFund Japan implemented a range of measures in Nagano to support those who were most vulnerable: children and elderly people. 

Emergency Packs

ChildFund distributed hygiene packs to women at a total of twelve evacuation centres in Nagano. The packs included masks, disposable body warmers, disinfectant gel, face wipes, skin lotion, and menstrual sanitary items.

Child-Centred Spaces

A child-centred space (CCS) was established at one of the largest evacuation centres. This provided young people with essential psychosocial care and support, age-appropriate education and recreational activities, as well as protection services for vulnerable children. 

These were crucial after the typhoon struck and ChildFund was able to provide access to expertise and essential services to assist youths to begin recovery from the tragedy. For young people separated from caregivers due to the disaster, the CCS provided a safe refuge until they could be reunited with their families. 

In addition, ChildFund was able to muster and mobilise experienced community volunteers to ensure children received trauma support and were provided with daily meals, while also having access to a quiet study area. 

A program of games and activities at the CCS restored some normality to the daily lives of children in the midst of a period of severe disruption – and lifted spirits.

ChildFund was able to offer parents a safe place to leave their children temporarily while they ascertained damage to property, began the difficult clean-up process and returned to vital livelihood activities. 

In total, 4,000 vulnerable children and young people were assisted at the Nagano CCS directly or indirectly.

People’s Café

Another innovative project from ChildFund was establishing a People’s Cafe in Nagano, which aimed to specifically support the needs of elderly residents. ChildFund operated several ‘people’s cafes’ at one of the larger evacuation centres and within community centres.

These community hubs facilitated social interaction and provided an environment in which older residents could overcome their trauma through positive interaction and discussions. 

Buddhist monks, who partnered with ChildFund to run the cafés, provided nearly 2,500 elderly Nagano residents with the opportunities to talk about their experiences, in a safe encouraging environment.

Community Support

The tragedy of the typhoon was devastating. In the town of Hakone near Mount Fuji, more than one metre of rain fell over two days, the highest total ever recorded in Japan over 48 hours.

The Chikuma flooding caused by the levees breaking, swept through residential areas, including one of Nagano’s major libraries (Koshoku) and a large childcare centre, destroying books and other key resources. 

In response, ChildFund donated more than 1,000 books to the library and children’s centre to replace those damaged in the floods caused by Typhoon Hagibis.

Nagano municipality also established several temporary housing areas, and a community centre, for families affected and unable to return to their homes.

ChildFund assisted these efforts by equipping the community centre with essential furniture and other basic items to ensure residents had a communal meeting place in which to try and de-stress, talk with and support each other, and exchange urgent information as recovery efforts began. 

ChildFund is proud to have been able to support communities affected by Typhoon Hagibis and demonstrate in another way, the power of sport, and give back to the community. 

The response and ability to give back to a nation that embraced Rugby World Cup 2019, the foundations of which rest on rugby’s values of passion, solidarity, integrity, respect and discipline, were never more evident than in the rugby family’s response to Typhoon Hagibis. 

This includes the critical response enabled by ChildFund and World Rugby’s partnership to support communities in Nagano.