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UN sees San Francisco quake anniversary as clarion call to make schools safer

UN sees San Francisco quake anniversary as clarion call to make schools safer

Sálvano Briceño
The main United Nations body entrusted with mitigating the impact of natural disasters today used the 100th anniversary of the great San Francisco earthquake to call for greater steps to protect schoolchildren such as better buildings and training, noting that at least 17,000 youngsters died in schools in last year’s Pakistani quake.

“After 100 years, we have acquired a great knowledge of seismic science but this knowledge still needs to be better applied and shared all over the world, UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction secretariat (UN/ISDR) director Salvano Briceño said.

“Too many schoolchildren are killed in school when disasters strike.

Mr. Briceño, who is attending the 100th Anniversary Earthquake Conference in San Francisco, noted that 6,700 schools were destroyed in Pakistan during the October quake with a terrible toll of 17,000 children, and more than 200 children were killed in a school in the Philippines in February when a landslide buried an entire village.

Together with its partners, the UN/ISDR will launch in June a two-year campaign on education to sensitize the general public on school safety and the importance of disaster risk reduction at school.

The ISDR system will mobilize Governments, communities and individuals to ensure that disaster risk reduction is fully integrated into school curricula and that school buildings are built or retrofitted to withstand natural hazards.

Many countries are already taking actions to promote safer schools. In Canada, British Columbia committed $1.5 billion to bring all the province’s schools up to acceptable safety standards within 15 years.

In Pakistan, the UN/ISDR are working closely with the government of Pakistan, non-government organizations (NGOs), universities and associations of engineers and architects to promote safe building standards in the recovery efforts.

“Children are among the most vulnerable groups, it is our obligation to protect them when they attend school,” Mr. Briceño said.