Recent floods and earthquakes in Pakistan, Haiti, Chile and other parts of the world are reminders of the importance of disaster reduction. The impact of such catastrophes on education include the loss of life of learners, educators and education officials, the destruction of school buildings and learning materials and lost time for learning.
This is why approaches to disaster reduction must have an education dimension.
In her message for International Day for Disaster Reduction 2010, Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General points out the need “to promote a culture of disaster reduction, placing the emphasis on pre-disaster action rather than contenting ourselves with post-disaster reaction.”
Education is negatively affected by disasters, but in terms of “pre-disaster action” it is also a key tool in reducing their impact. The Hyogo Framework for Action, adopted by 168 governments in 2005, identified knowledge and education as one of the Five Priorities of Action. Priority three states: “Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels.” Education is an important entry point for building community resilience to disaster risks.
UNESCO’s engagement in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and education activities include the following:
Haiti: training teachers and education personnel in disaster awareness, and providing education authorities with basic training in emergency planning and management.
Pakistan: conducting teacher training on disaster management and psychosocial support
Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru: carrying out the DIPECHO project on learning for and adapting to tsunamis; developing and pilot-testing local disaster risk reduction plans; conducting drills and evacuation exercises and implementing educational activities for teachers, students and local communities.
Namibia: developing a DRR school manual and radio programme, and engaging in DRR advocacy.
In terms of “post-disaster reaction”, on 5 November UNESCO will be hosting the Paris launch of four new major tools from the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, 2010 and the UNESCO-IIEP Guidebook for Planning Education in Emergencies and Reconstruction.
The UN General Assembly designated 13 October as the International Day of Disaster Reduction in 1989 with the goal of promoting a global culture of natural disaster reduction, including disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness.