Children plead for involvement in disaster risk reduction

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Children displaced by an earthquake in China. [UNICEF Photo]

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 in Geneva.

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.

The children said that schools should play a role in both their personal and academic lives. They said that 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.

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.

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; among others.

The adult panelists concluded that where children are concerned, 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.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’43″

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