Chil­dren and Youth Call for In­clu­sion in Disas­ter Risk Re­duc­tion in Asia

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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.

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