By Taleen Vartan
NEW YORK, 25 August 2011 – Since 2006, UNICEF has teamed up with the Government of the Netherlands, the European Commission and other partners to scale up work in education in emergencies and post-crisis transition (EEPCT) countries through the Back on Track programme. This initiative supports countries in emergency and post-crisis transition contexts to establish sustainable progress towards achieving quality basic education for all.
The third of the four goals of the Back on Track programme is to increase education-sector contribution to better prediction, prevention and preparedness for emergencies caused by natural disaster and conflict.
To minimize the impact of disasters on vulnerable communities, UNICEF and its partners support various disaster risk reduction programmes aimed at saving lives, increasing the resilience of communities to future shocks and protecting livelihoods, assets and infrastructure. This also involves building the capacity of the education sector to provide technical knowledge on natural hazards to local communities.
Through these tools, education can contribute to better predict emergencies and to prevent them where possible. It can also help prepare communities to deal with emergencies.
Multiple natural disasters in the Philippines
With an average of 20 typhoons or tropical storms a year, the Philippines are among the world’s most disaster-prone countries. To better predict, prevent, or prepare for these natural hazards, disaster risk reduction was mainstreamed in education sector plans and budgets in order to institutionalize emergency preparedness and response in the education sector. With support from the Back on Track programme, UNICEF and partners are providing training to local government officials and teachers in disaster preparedness, while conducting preparedness activities focused on children.
In 2009, EEPCT funds were used to develop and distribute a disaster risk reduction resource manual in the Philippines. The manual has become a resource for local-level training and orientation to education cluster members and serves as a guide for teachers and school heads on concepts, strategies and procedures of disaster risk reduction.
UNICEF aims to link work at the school and community levels with the education sector and system planning and policies. For better preparedness, the national and Mindanao education clusters developed contingency plans for setting up emergency supplies in areas vulnerable to disasters. This plan also outlines sector-wide provisions for resource mobilization, communication and networking between education cluster members.
Reducing risks for the communities
The third goal of the Back on Track programme sets out to mitigate the hazards affecting communities or households as well as build their resiliency to those risks. To strengthen strategies at the community level, UNICEF and local non-governmental organization partners, supported by the Department of Education, have introduced disaster risk reduction practices into schools. These initiatives have involved community members and engaged students in disaster risk identification, assessment and discussion of risk management methods and systems. By integrating disaster risk reduction policies in teacher training and school planning, these concepts are mainstreamed in the school curriculum throughout different subject areas.
The Back on Track programme has improved school and child safety in the Philippines through increased awareness of disaster preparedness and prevention at the community level. UNICEF and partners continue to work to minimize vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout the country as well as to facilitate sustainable dev. EEPCT funds have made a substantive impact on ensuring that quality education reaches the most threatened communities, and that children in these communities gain skills and knowledge on the local environment and on how to protect themselves from possible risks.
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