Thursday 13th October 2011 is International Disaster Reduction Day. The day is celebrated annually to raise awareness of what we can all do to reduce our risk to disasters. With a number of major disasters hitting the headlines – including the drought and food crisis in the Horn of Africa and floods across Asia – the message is more relevant than ever.
This year, the day is focusing on the role that children and young people can play in making their communities better prepared for disasters. Evidence shows that children living in poverty, as well as other traditionally-marginalised groups such as women, are disproportionately affected by disasters. But ActionAid’s experience indicates that, given the opportunity, both children and women can make significant contributions to disaster reduction efforts.
ActionAid’s ground-breaking Disaster Risk Reduction through Schools project, implemented in 9 countries over 5 years, recognised the unique potential of children to act as "agents of change".
"A focus on children can help create a sense of urgency around the need to analyse and address hazards and risks, as well as provide a long-term perspective as children grow up," says John Abuya, ActionAid’s expert on Disaster Risk Reduction.
"Children also act as excellent messengers of a culture of prevention – spreading the word amongst parents and the wider community about the need to prepare for disasters. All they need to understand is why disasters happen, when they will happen, what they can do when it happens, and how to live in a way that makes disasters less likely to happen."
Similarly, if given the space and opportunity, women can play a unique role in preparing their communities for disasters and in responding to emergencies.
"By assuming positions of responsibility, women can help change the power dynamics, cultural norms and discrimination which make them more vulnerable to disasters in the first place," explains Abuya.
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