By Rudina Vojvoda
GENEVA, Switzerland, 13 May 2011 – Last year, children bore their share of natural disasters and the economic crises that followed. Millions of children suffered as a result of floods in Pakistan and the earthquake in Haiti.
These disasters have prevented children from accessing a quality education.
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This week, the Children in a Changing Climate Coalition hosted an event on safe schools as part of the Third Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva. UNICEF Japan Ambassador Agnes Chan gave a keynote speech on the critical role of school safety and education in reducing the impact of disasters.
Safe schools save lives
Before the event, Dr. Chan spoke with UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello about her latest visits to earthquake-devastated areas of Japan, where she met with children and teachers who survived.
Despite an 8.9-magnitude earthquake, followed by a 10-metre high tsunami, most schools in Japan are still standing due to their sturdy construction and higher ground locations.
“Because the earthquake occurred at 2:45 p.m. when most of the school children were still at school, and because they have regular drills and teachers are well prepared, a lot of children survived the disaster,” said Dr. Chan.
Highlighting the importance of disaster risk reduction education and preparedness, Dr. Chan said that in some schools children had initiated the evacuation by themselves, saving their own lives and that of teachers.
These examples clearly demonstrate that children’s lives can be saved through safe school constructions, disaster risk reduction education and school preparedness plans.
Committing to school safety
However, the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction shows slow progress over the last few years, with only seven per cent of the 75 participating countries marking significant advances.
“These procedures are very cost effective and they really can save lives,” said Dr. Chan, as she encouraged other governments to advance their agendas in disaster risk reduction.
Dr. Chan added that financial commitment should go hand-in-hand with political commitment. “We also need commitments from the educators to educate themselves and children to be prepared,” she said.
UNICEF Disaster Risk Reduction and Education
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