Japanese ICMIF member Zenkyoren (National Mutual Insurance Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives), is the national federation that manages Kyosai (the name for cooperative insurance in Japan) business for farmers in the JA Group consisting of more than 600 Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JAs) all over Japan.
According to the 2019 issue of the World Cooperative Monitor published by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) and the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse), Zenkyoren is ranked number 5 in the top 10 of cooperatives and mutuals worldwide by turnover.
In response to the spread of COVID-19 infection, Zenkyoren has included COVID-19 as a "specific infectious disease" to be covered by Kyosai. As a result of this, deaths due to COVID-19 are treated as an accidental death, not a disease, and the insured person shall be paid an additional amount of insurance money that is stipulated in the policy; Zenkyoren also covers out-of-hospital medical treatment when proof by a doctor, etc., is obtained; Zenkyoren has also implemented special measures for policyholders, such as extension of payment period for premiums.
Currently, it is difficult for JA staff to meet members/policyholders face to face because people in Japan are still currently required to refrain from going out and must maintain social distance. Therefore, Zenkyoren has created a dedicated flyer summarizing its various initiatives in relation to COVID-19 to support members/policyholders and the organisation is also providing information on its website, Zenkyoren is committed to maintaining contact with its members/policyholders and is also working to help resolve their concerns by combining the use of flyers with telephone contacts.
As part of initiatives for members and families to have a comfortable and healthy life and for children to enjoy learning about traffic rules, Zenkyoren has also made various forms of useful content available on its website, including "calisthenics for health" and "traffic safety quizzes" which can be easily done at home. In addition, Zenkyoren provides a free telephone consultation service where people can consult with doctors, nurses, dietitians, and care support specialists regarding their concerns about health, nursing care, and childcare.
In April, having seen that the shortage of medical supplies at medical institutions worsened due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Zenkyoren donated 100,000 surgical masks that it had stockpiled in preparation for a disaster as well as 7,800 newly purchased face shields to medical institutions, together with message cards (pictured) of words of support and gratitude to medical workers handwritten by Zenkyoren employees.
Fumio Yanai, President of Zenkyoren, told the recipients of the donations: "I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all medical staff who work day and night on the front lines so that JA members and local residents can maintain their health and live in peace. We sincerely hope that these masks will help medical professionals fight the threat of COVID-19. "
In response to this, there has been a strong reply from the recipients of Zenkyoren’s donations, "This support is a great encouragement. We will work together to overcome this unprecedented difficulty and continue to protect the health of JA members and local residents."
Zenkyoren is also planning to donate 500,000 surgical masks to the JA Group's nursing homes as a support for caregivers who take care of the lives of the elderly and disabled in June.
Fumio Yanai also told around 6,500 of Zenkyoren employees about the mission and role of Zenkyoren as well as his thoughts: "Although the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on our business activities, I am convinced that now is time to focus on our efforts under the mission of Kyosai business and to proactively tackle many issues in front of us. I also believe that these efforts and activities will be the driving force to overcome this crisis and will lead to further growth for each of us, eventually for our organisation and business.”
Zenkyoren says it will continue to work for rural communities by providing good protection and preventing the spread of infection.
Photo shows: A noticeboard on which messages from Zenkyoren staff to medical workers were displayed. Examples of the messages are:
- Thanks to you, we can live in peace despite this difficult time.
- We sincerely respect everyone who works at the forefront of medicine and we'll do our best not to be infected with COVID-19.
- Thank you so much for protecting the lives of people in the communities while risking your own lives.
- Japan's medical care has been maintained thanks to all of you.
- Let's do our best together with the words "one for all, all for one" in mind.