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Supporting Disaster Risk Reduction training for children in Uzbekistan

Today is the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. This year, children and young people are encouraged to step up and take part. Check out a series of stories on disaster preparedness in the region.

 

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 13 Octber 2011 - At a recent Kimyogar summer camp, in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan, the boy winced in pain as the nurse applied the bandage to his ‘injured’ arm, explaining to the other boys and girls as she did so, what she was doing. The smiles from the audience at the victim’s apparent anguish, told you this was just a performance, and a very good one at that.

In spite of the good humour, the children knew they were learning valuable skills that might one day save lives.

From practicing evacuations of dormitories in the event of an earthquake, to demonstrations of how properly to don a respirator, the various drills and lessons that make up Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) training all had an element of student participation that ensured maximum impact. 

“After we go outside, we gather in the area they tell us,” explained Kasimov Ravshan, aged 11, after finishing an evacuation drill. “So they can make sure we are all accounted for.” In addition to learning about earthquakes, Ravshan was able to describe the drill for surviving a flood and how to tackle a fire (if it was small enough), while summoning help. 

An annual two week camp for 5 to 14 year olds, nestling in the hills of Bostonlik District, it was difficult to imagine disasters amid such beauty. In the capital, Tashkent, however, a memorial to the 1966 earthquake which all but destroyed the city, acts as a reminder of what can happen.

There have also been much more recent reminders. A powerful tremor in late July, measured more than seven on the Richter scale, claiming 13 lives and leaving hundreds of people homeless.

Global climate change is also likely to influence the severity and frequency of weather events.

Working with the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Uzbekistan, and the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department, ECHO, UNICEF supports Disaster Risk Reduction training for children throughout the education system.

 

Programmes like this one, that continue the effort during the school summer vacation, are also evidence of its sustainability.

“What’s really most impressive is the ownership that the Government has taken of this programme,” said Linda Saturno, Chief of UNICEF Social Policy Section. “This is a programme that was initiated by UNICEF last summer. This year, UNICEF is providing only minor support to this effort.”

With real life emergencies already testing the skills of 350,000 pupils, and 5,000 teachers who have undergone training, the investment is clearly proving its worth.

To ensure sustainability, UNICEF is currently promoting the inclusion of DRR into formal school curricula, and development of training and learning programmes on how to reduce risk at a community level.

UNICEF also continues to advocate for integration of the disaster risk reduction strategy into the overall national development agenda and is assisting regional governments to develop strategies and action plans to keep communities, rural health points, schools and kindergartens safe in an event of major disasters.

“UNICEF cannot limit our interventions only to schools and students,” said Linda Saturno. “So in working with the Government, we have expanded our efforts to working with community leaders, in coming together in the event of a disaster.”

Children like Ganieva Madina, aged 10, is prepared to do her part for her community. Having experienced a small quake and now finishing her DRR training at this camp, she was better prepared for the future. “It was a small quake and I slept through it,” she explained. “My Mum told me about it afterwards and I think we are now prepared if a big one happens.”

 

 
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