Disaster losses would be cut if children knew what to do, they say
Geneva (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) - Children can and should play a crucial role in disaster risk reduction, a panel of children from disaster-prone regions told the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction this afternoon.
Children from Ethiopia, Japan, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Lesotho, Norway and the United Kingdom shared their experiences with disasters and suggested how they and other children could be instrumental in reducing disaster-related risks. Also participating in the event were adult stakeholders representing Governments, donors and international organizations.
Priorities for children involved in disasters have already been defined by children themselves in a “Children’s Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction”, which was adopted at the previous session of the Platform in 2011. They include the right to safe schools and uninterrupted education; the right to protection before, during and after disasters; the right to participate and to access the necessary information; the right to safe community infrastructure and to risk-reducing relief and reconstruction; and the right of the most vulnerable people to disaster risk reduction.
The children said that schools should play a role in both their personal and academic lives, as they could also disseminate information to the community at large. Disaster risk reduction should be part of school curricula, because if children knew what to do in the event of a disaster, the damage and losses might be lessened. Children should be allowed to voice their concerns and contribute their ideas.
A girl from Lesotho described how her country systematically identified existing gaps in child protection before, during and after disasters, and encouraged other countries to adopt similar approaches. A boy from Japan recalled how the recent earthquake and tsunami there had wiped away many facilities, including ones meant for safety. “It is critical to make sure that this does not happen again and that public facilities are built in safe locations,” he pleaded. A Vietnamese boy recounted the severe floods that had engulfed his town, and how he and his frightened family had scrambled up to the roof to wait and see. “Since that experience,” he said, “whenever I see flooding and rain I am filled with fear.” A flood preparedness programme was needed, and should also include plans to evacuate children with disabilities. “Children should be taught how to prepare for floods, and this includes deaf children,” he stressed.
Children are one of the largest and most vulnerable groups in the world, with about 30 per cent of the world population under age 18, but they are far from being a homogenous group. The most vulnerable among them are frequently those who are hardest to reach, panellists observed, and that includes children who are not in school and might not have any access to information.
Where children are concerned, the adult panellists concluded, disaster risk reduction should involve listening to children, including preparedness plans in school curricula, and raising awareness not just for communities but also for children not in school.
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