The United Nations has developed a new children's board game called Riskland which harnesses the power of fun to teach youngsters what to do in the event of a natural disaster.
First developed by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN staff of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, the game has spread worldwide and is being translated into nearly 40 languages, including Portuguese, Swahili, Zulu, Farsi, Bangla and Japanese.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies provided support for the initiative, which was announced today on the eve of the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction, observed on 13 October.
One of Riskland's creators, UN/ISDR's Elina Palm, told reporters in Geneva today that some 254 million people were affected by disasters caused by natural hazards – a 180 per cent increase compared to 1990. Last year, the economic losses were estimated to be $65 billion and every year thousands of people, mostly women and children, were killed by natural disasters.
Emphasizing the importance of children learning at an early age about the long-term benefits of disaster reduction, Ms. Palm pointed out that kids can spread messages about the issue throughout their communities.
Everett Ressler, UNICEF Senior Project Officer for Emergency Operations, said Riskland is an example of how to reach out to children in areas where disasters could cause the worst damage. Given that children and women suffered disproportionately in these areas, UNICEF works to advocate a “child-safe environment,” Mr. Ressler said. “An environment safe for children [is] an environment safe for everybody.”
The UN/ISDR is now organizing the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, to be held in Kobe, Japan from 18 to 22 January 2005. The Conference aims to raise the profile of risk reduction and emphasize the importance of education and public awareness for disaster reduction.