|© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-1591/Gonzalo Bell|
|Fourth-graders seek shelter under a table during an earthquake preparedness exercise at Elementary School No. 148 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.|
To minimize the impact of disasters on vulnerable communities, UNICEF and its partners support various disaster risk reduction (DRR) programmes. These are aimed at saving lives, increasing community resilience to future shocks and protecting livelihoods, assets and infrastructure. DRR also builds the capacity of the education sector to provide technical knowledge on natural hazards facing communities. It helps improve prediction and prevention of emergencies and prepare communities to deal with them.
UNICEF advocates for the rights of all children, particularly the most deprived and vulnerable. The goal is to help meet children’s basic needs and expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. Disasters – including chronic disasters caused by environmental degradation – worsen the living conditions of the most vulnerable people. Disasters hamper fulfillment of children’s rights and aggravate the exclusion of around 67 million out-of-school children worldwide. Disasters are therefore rolling back years of progress towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 2 and hindering achievement of the UNICEF equity agenda.
The situation is getting worse, not better, because of the growing frequency and severity of natural disasters due to climate change. In the late 1990s, an estimated 66.5 million children were affected by disasters each year. That number is expected to climb to as many as 175 million per year in the current decade (2010–2020). Evidence proves that investing in DRR strategies improves the resilience of communities to cope with recurring disasters and keep children in school. DRR and climate change adaptation measures in schools ensure inclusion of poor people in back-to-school initiatives and reduction of their vulnerability before, during and after emergencies.
DRR in Schools
Evidence is growing that students of all ages can study and participate in school safety measures and work with teachers and other adults to minimize risk before, during and after disasters.
For example, efforts by Bangladesh to strengthen national emergency preparedness and DRR programmes in the education system contributed to education reconstruction after Cyclone Aila in 2009. Teaching materials were pre-positioned in areas at high risk of cyclones and flooding. Transitional schools were built so children could continue their education. These schools were strengthened to withstand the impact of cyclones. Children participated in identifying school vulnerabilities and, together with school management committees, developed DRR strategies and contingency plans. These have benefitted more than 83,000 children to date.
UNICEF has the capacity to link work in school and communities with planning and policymaking at higher levels of the education sector. Working in partnerships, UNICEF has the unique ability not only to promote safe schools but to teach valuable life skills to children. The children, in turn, communicate these messages to their families and communities.
The child-friendly education approach aims to provide relevant, high-quality education to the most threatened and marginalized communities. This includes providing them with knowledge, skills and attitudes about the local environment and on how to reduce risks. As a result, children are prepared to cope with climate change and find solutions to its effects in their communities.