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by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) July 26, 2012
Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus said Thursday that microfinance could help disaster-struck Japan rebuild, even though the concept he pioneered is usually associated with poor and developing nations.
Yunus, seen as one of the world's leading anti-poverty activists, said extending small loans could help people in regions devastated by last year's quake-tsunami disaster, despite Japan being one of Asia's richest countries.
"It's needed everywhere -- it doesn't matter where you are," the Bangladeshi Nobel laureate told the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.
"When you come to a disaster area like Tohoku (in northeast Japan), it's all the more important... You have to rebuild everything all over again. There's no house, there's nothing."
About 19,000 people died or remain missing after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake off Japan's northeastern coast triggered a giant tsunami on March 11 last year.
Many had to evacuate communities near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, leaving thousands without jobs or homes.
"You used to have a job. Now you have no job because of the disaster. Can I create my own job? Self-employment," Yunus said, citing the benefits of small microfinance loans.
Yunus was the founder of Grameen Bank, which has been credited with lifting millions of people out of poverty by offering rural families small loans to start small business ventures.
But last year he was sacked as head of the bank, apparently on the orders of the Bangladeshi government, sparking widespread international anger.
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