Children and Youth Call for Inclusion in Disaster Risk Reduction in Asia
New Delhi, 4 November 2016 – Children are effective agents of change and must be included in disaster risk reduction strategies and processes – the youth have told delegates at the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction being held from 2 to 5 November 2016.
When disasters strike, children are especially vulnerable to diseases caused by disrupted access to basic services such as health, nutrition, safe water and sanitation. They can miss out on education, suffer from psychological trauma, or face exploitation, violence, abuse, and separation from their caregivers. The poorest and the most marginalized children are systematically the worst affected. All of these have long-term consequences, not only on the children themselves, but on the community as a whole.
“UNICEF strongly believes that today’s children are tomorrow’s future, and their future is at risk. Children and adolescents will bear the brunt of a more extreme climate and increased risk of disasters. We must encourage them to speak out, listen to what they say, and involve them in decisions and finding solutions,” said Mr. Louis-Georges Arsenault, Representative UNICEF India.
UNICEF and partner organizations organized a thematic session on Child Centered Disaster Risk Reduction as part of the ongoing Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Delhi. During the session, children and youth from across Asia advocated for governments to include children and youth issues in disaster risk reduction. Some of their ideas include engaging children and youth in developing and monitoring disaster risk reduction legislation and programmes, strengthening disaster preparedness and making sure schools are safe and that education is not interrupted, especially as disasters in the region are frequent.
“We spend six hours in school. Why not incorporate a chapter on school safety measures in the curriculum to sensitize and spread awareness?” said Lal Babu Sah, a fourteen-year-old eighth grade student from Bihar in India.
Simple and effective disaster risk reduction measures include teaching children about the environment and climate change, developing school preparedness plans, instituting early warning systems, or building community water supply facilities that are protected from flood waters.
“We need to make children aware by using mediums that they relate to – be it street theatre, songs, puppet shows, story-telling sessions, etc. Children are the best agents of change,” said Sonam Mishra, a ninthgrade student from Bihar.
Investing in child-cen- tred disaster risk reduction efforts not only saves lives but also allows for smarter allocation of limited resources to protect children and make them more resilient to disasters.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate this commitment into practical action, focusing special efforts on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.