Concerted global action needed to make schools safe from collapse, UN says

23 December 2008

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called today for more concerted action to make school buildings around the world safe following the collapse of thousands of schools this year, many of them deadly, due to earthquakes, cyclones and other causes.

“Whether caused by poor construction or natural catastrophes, school collapses invariably have disastrous effects on children,” UNICEF Global Chief of Education Cream Wright said. “Schools must be safe places where children can learn and thrive.”

Schools are unlikely to topple when natural disasters strike if they have a strong structural design, their construction is closely monitored and they undergo regular maintenance, UNICEF noted.

A devastating earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province on 12 May is estimated to have killed thousands of children, damaging more than 12,000 schools, or 40 per cent of all those in the province, and another 6,500 in neighbouring Gansu Province.

In Myanmar more than 4,000 schools still need to be repaired or rebuilt to provide permanency and security to affected children following the 3 May cyclone.

In Pakistan the earthquake that hit the north-eastern areas of Balochistan province on 29 October damaged some 300 schools in the worst-affected districts of Ziarat, Pishin and Harnai – 85 per cent of schools in these areas – as well as 124 schools in the neighbouring Quetta district. More than 31,000 students were affected.

In Haiti more than 90 children and teachers perished on 7 November after their school collapsed because of poor infrastructure. Hurricanes and tropical storms that pounded the country in August and September damaged nearly 1,000 schools.

Safe construction is an essential component of child-friendly schools and learning spaces, UNICEF noted. “Safe schools don’t just save children’s lives, they can also serve as temporary shelters for communities in times of disasters,” Mr. Wright said.

 

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