By Rob McBride
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 11 NOVEMBER 2010 - In the boys and girls dormitory huts of the Kimyogar Summer Camp, the young campers appeared to be taking an afternoon nap. However, the intermittent giggles and elbow nudges hinted that all was not as it seemed.
|VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Rob McBride reports on a nationwide disaster-preparedness training programme for young people in Uzbekistan. Watch in RealPlayer|
Suddenly, the adult camp leaders an turned on the lights and drew back of curtains, and the children sprung into life. With well-rehearsed swiftness, they jumped up and scurried beneath their beds, demonstrating how they would react during a real earthquake. After taking a few moments to regain composure, all the children got dressed and filed out of the huts into the bright sunshine of a glorious summer afternoon.
Disaster is unpredictable
For these children, the drill was a fun part of their annual summer camp, but the lessons being learned were very serious.
“After we go outside, we gather in the area they tell us,” explained eleven-year-old Kasimov Ravshan, “So they can make sure we are all accounted for.” In addition to learning about earthquakes, Kasimov was able to describe the drill for surviving a flood and how to tackle a fire - if small enough - while summoning help.
Here, at the annual two week camp for five to fourteen year olds in the Bostonlik district, it’s difficult to imagine disasters amidst such beauty. Still, the memorial for the devastating 1966 earthquake in nearby Tashkent is a reminder of what can happen.
|© UNICEF video|
|A volunteer learns how to pull a gas mask over his head at the Kimyogar Summer Camp in Tashkent region, Uzbekistan.|
The far more recent emergency resulting from violence in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, which prompted a huge influx of refugees, also illustrated the unpredictable nature of events in this part of the world.
Prepared for the worst
Supported by UNICEF and the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, the Government has embarked on a nationwide training program for young people in Uzbekistan, to enable them to deal with future disasters - instead of being victims of one.
Reaching communities largely through the school system, more than 300,000 children so far have been taught about disasters and how to prepare for them. They in turn have been taking the messages back to their families.
“During term time, these kinds of exercises are conducted extensively,” explained Husniddin Aglayev, the head of the Civil Protection Training Centre in the Tashkent region. “The children take home materials to share with their families, so we get the message out to the wider community.”
With more than half the country prone to quakes, it is an important message to learn and the younger the better. Although only ten years old, Ganieva Madina, told us she had already experienced one. “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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