Today marks the United Nations International Day for Disaster Reduction; the focus of this year’s awareness day is on the valuable contribution that children can make in reducing the impact of natural disasters and in making decisions that can safeguard both their lives and the lives of people in their community.
The Health Protection Agency recently published a factsheet with collaborators from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Save the Children on the impact of natural disasters on child health. The factsheet includes information on the causes of neonatal mortality and risk of infections in the aftermath of a disaster, and has been made available on the HPA website. It can be used by those involved in efforts to reduce the impact of disasters on public health such as local authorities and charities.
Professor Virginia Murray, Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection at the HPA said:
“Events this year with the earthquakes in Haiti and New Zealand, tsunami in Japan and hurricanes and heat-waves in America, have shocked the world and reminded us how vulnerable we all are to natural disasters.”
“The Disaster Risk Reduction day provides us with an opportunity to educate children on the health impacts of extreme events experienced in the UK such as floods and heat-waves. There is much we can do to lessen the devastating impact natural disasters can have on public health through engaging in education about risk reduction. Children can be extraordinary advocates through their knowledge and understanding of extreme events.
“While children can suffer from extreme trauma following a natural disaster, portraying children simply as victims can fail to acknowledge the valuable roles they can play in reducing the health impacts of a natural disaster.
A Children’s Charter was also launched this year at the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva. The Charter promotes five key priorities:
• Schools must be safe and education uninterrupted;
• Child protection needs to be a priority, both before, during and after a disaster;
• Children have the right to participate and to access the information they need;
• Community infrastructure must be safe, and relief and reconstruction must help reduce future risk;
• Disaster risk reduction must reach the most vulnerable
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