By Taleen Vartan
NEW YORK, USA, 8 August 2012 – To ‘build back better’ after emergencies, UNICEF works with governments and other partners to ensure that children are able to study in a safe environment which can withstand potential hazards. The Education in Emergencies and Post-Crisis Transition (EEPCT) programme – also known as ‘Back on Track’ – has contributed to disaster risk reduction (DRR) by ensuring that children have access to quality education during and after disasters or emergencies, and by integrating knowledge on how to reduce risk and vulnerability into education programmes.
The EEPCT programme funded a series of case studies to highlight innovative programming through hallmark interventions. To analyse education outcomes for children due to country-specific risk reduction activities, this particular case study examines DRR in education and results for children, including two country studies in the Philippines and Peru as well as a wider consultation exercise in Africa, Asia and South America.
The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, averaging 20 typhoons annually. In 2006, Super Typhoon Reming devastated the country. In Albay, the hardest-hit area, 702 out of 704 schools were seriously damaged, affecting 350,000 children.
Through the EEPCT programme, UNICEF played an important role in re-establishing a functioning school system in the wake of the typhoon while simultaneously seeking to ensure that the schools were more equipped to withstand any future impacts.
Construction in the Philippines included multi-purpose school buildings and evacuation centres. This work was supplemented by non-structural activities that included a DRR pilot project in six elementary and high schools, which led to the formation of a School Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council comprising children, teachers, parents and local government officials. These councils created a forum for communities to discuss risk reduction strategies in endemic areas and to advocate for the inclusion of schools and children in national disaster planning.
Peru is a country prone to earthquakes and tsunamis; 72 per cent of the population is at high seismic risk, and the country’s coastline not only houses the majority of the population, but possesses the highest risk of tsunamis. Disaster risk management is a high national priority, in large part due to the high visibility and economic impact of recent disasters. The core national curriculum used by schools in Peru includes a theme on environmental education, which is underpinned by eco-efficiency, health and risk management.
In Callao Region, which borders the Pacific Ocean, students in a secondary school used their knowledge on disaster risk to identify ways that they could reduce risk in their community. Child-led initiatives, supported by the EEPCT programme, included lobbying the Government to make the escape route for tsunamis safer. The youth also approached a nearby preschool, which is also at high risk of tsunamis, and helped them to develop a similar contingency plan.
Outcomes for children
In the Philippines and Peru, much change occurred at both the national and local levels due to the mainstreaming of DRR activities in the EEPCT programme. This has led to increased access to education, preparedness and resiliency among communities. Specific outcomes include safer school buildings; greater preparedness and awareness of risk management among children; the ability to identify and address endemic risks; continuity of education services; and a greater sense of overall security and confidence.