Children must be better educated to minimize disaster risks – UN

9 October 2007

On the eve of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, a top United Nations official today stressed the necessity of improving children’s disaster preparedness and bolstering their safety in the classroom.

“Too many children are dying because they are not educated to live with disasters or because they are attending classes in unsafe buildings. Making schools safer must be the priority of every government in a disaster-prone country,” said Sálvano Briceño, Director of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR).

“Disaster risk reduction has no cost compared to the loss of a school full of children buried alive in a mudslide or crushed by a falling building.”

Speaking to reporters in New York, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said that the Day is especially timely since “more people are threatened by these natural hazards and disasters and extreme weather events than at any time in history.”

In the past three decades, the number of disasters triggered by natural hazards – increasingly a result of climate change – has tripled, he said.

“The number of people affected has roughly been doubling every ten years, and that’s a trend which is now accelerating, and this means in effect that five times more people are likely to be affected in any one year than a generation ago.”

The ISDR today issued a new publication – entitled “Towards a Culture of Prevention: Disaster Risk Reduction Begins at School” – which gives 35 practical examples of how to improve school safety.

Good examples of projects to prepare children for natural hazards can be found in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mozambique, Costa Rica, France Madagascar, the Philippines, Iran, Tanzania and Peru, while India, Japan and Nepal’s safety initiatives can be replicated globally.

“Teaching our children today is empowering the next generation to address disaster risk more effectively tomorrow,” Mr. Briceño said.

To introduce children to basic concepts in disaster risk reduction, the French, Spanish, Chinese and Russian language versions of “Stop Disaster,” an online game, were launched today.

In the game, which was released in English last year, players are presented with disaster scenarios and must reduce its risk with a given budget.

ISDR’s efforts to educate children are part of its larger “Disaster Risk Education Begins at School” campaign focusing on improving the safety of school buildings and integrating disaster risk reduction into school curricula.

The campaign kicked off last year with the support of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the non-governmental organization (NGO) ActionAid International and other partners.

To commemorate the Day, ISDR is convening a roundtable discussion in Geneva to identify how to build on the campaign’s results.

Other events celebrating the Day will take place in Brussels, Belgium; Kobe, Japan; Bangkok, Thailand; Dushanbe, Tajikistan; and Panama.

 

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