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Celebrating the International day for Disaster Reduction - Focus on Women and Girls

International day for Disaster Reduction
© UNICEF Mozambique/2012
Girls and Boys attending a school class in a UNICEF provided Emergency School tent in response to the flooding in 2011, Province of Gaza.

MAPUTO, 13 October 2012 – The occurrence of natural and man-made disasters including floods, cyclones, drought, fires, earthquakes among others, cause enormous suffering including loss of life, disruption of livelihoods and of economic activities and damage and degradation of the environment. This is truth for countries such as Mozambique, the third most vulnerable to hydro-meteorological hazards in the regions (Moz Country Profile 2009).

The key national and international actors, in recognition of the need to minimize disaster impacts has embarked fully on disaster management strategies aimed at risk reduction in support of sustainable development objectives. This culminated with the establishment of the The International Day for Disaster Reduction started in 1989 with the approval by the United Nations General Assembly. The UN General Assembly sees the IDDR as a way to promote a global culture of disaster reduction, including disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness. Originally celebrated on the second Wednesday of October (resolution 44/236, 22 December 1989), the UN General Assembly decided to designate October 13th as the date to celebrate the IDDR (resolution 64/200, 21 December 2009).

This year celebration theme focus on "Women and Girls: the [in] Visible Force of Resilience. The impact of disaster on this group can be very different from the impact on men.

The Mozambique’s celebration will involve mess media activities such as Radio talks, TV debates and activities in the selected community to seize the opportunity to raise community awareness on the need to take actions for Disaster Risk Reduction.

UNICEF Mozambique, as part of the Humanitarian Country Team and the Government’s Disaster Management Institution are organizing the celebration of IDDR as an opportunity to promote a global culture of disaster reduction, including disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness. Focusing on the following:

  • Draw attention to the fact that women and girls efforts to protect and rebuild their communities before and after the disasters are often not recognized and that the “invisibility” is social and culturally constructed;
  • Recognize that their ability to contribute is hampered by the lack of inclusion and misunderstanding of gender relation and there is a need to take bold actions to protect the most vulnerable;
  • Observe the contribution that women and girls use to undertake before, during and after disasters to rebuilt their community and recognize that they are agents of change;
  • Raise the stories of action and initiative of women and girls and men and boys, and also seeks to highlight the obstacles that prevent them from participating in decision-making and actions for Disaster Risk Reduction at all levels.

In addition to the IDDR special event, during the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11th, the Mozambican Children Parliament will make a presentation on the Children’s Charter on DRR in Mozambique, where hardcopies of the Charter on DRR will be disseminated for more than 500 participants.

Most of Mozambique’s environmental vulnerability is linked to water. Water stress, including droughts and floods, can have devastating effects on safe drinking water and sanitation. Shallow wells can dry up in times of drought, putting pressure on any deeper wells that may exist. Floods can contaminate drinking water, especially in areas that have poor sanitation. Weak water and sanitation infrastructure can be easily damaged by floods and cyclones, and areas with poor drainage can increase the risk of cholera. These conditions have an acute effect on children, as they are more affected by contaminated water, extreme heat or floods and those factors contribute greatly to the main killers of children: malaria, diarrhoea and hunger/undernutrition.

UNICEF’s work in disaster risk reduction is part of a wider organizational effort to enhance the effectiveness of the country programme process. The goals of the DRM programme are to: (1) increase prevention, mitigation, transfer and preparedness related to risks (whether natural disasters or climate change issues), and (2) improve response and recovery from actual emergencies. DRM is cross-cutting and aims to raise community awareness by working with children and youth groups. In Mozambique, the DRR and CCA programme is a child-centred model, combining child-focused and child-led activities with interventions geared towards bringing about change in community, local and national duty bearers.


UNICEF Global Key messages

1. The Challenge

  • Women and children are 14 times more likely to die in a disaster than men.
  • On average, at least half of all people who die in disasters are children.
  • Disasters exacerbate already existing vulnerabilities of and inequalities between girls, boys, women and men.
  • Disasters negatively impact children’s and women’s rights.
  • Women and girl’s specific needs have been rarely assessed, planned for or addressed in emergency response, recovery or disaster risk reduction.
  • Disaster risks are increasing. It has been estimated that losses from weather-related disasters alone are doubling globally every 12 years(1); and climate change impacts are predicted to increase the numbers of children affected by disasters from an estimated 66.5 million per year in the late 1990s, to as many as 175 million per year in the coming decade(2).

2. Girls’ participation

  • Girls are not just disaster victims- they have real and significant roles to play in risk reduction, and can make a number of positive contributions by:
    • Analysing the risks faced by their communities;
    • Designing and implementing DRR interventions for their community;
    • Educating family and peers about risks and solutions to risks;
    • Mobilising resources and action for community based resilience;
    • Building local capacity, knowledge and confidence.

3. What is UNICEF doing?

  • UNICEF’s DRR strategy is focused on four key outcomes:
    • DRR for children and women is a national priority;
      In close collaboration with the Brazilian Government, UNICEF supported the development of the ‘National Protocol for Integral Protection of Children and Adolescents in Disaster Situations’.
      In 2011, UNICEF, Save the Children, Plan, World Vision and the Institute for Development Studies supported 600 children in 21 countries to develop the ‘Children’s Charter on DRR’. The Charter identifies the top five priority DRR actions from a child’s perspective and is being promoted at global, regional and national level. 
    • Risks faced by children and women are identified and addressed;
      In Haiti, UNICEF partnered with Plan International to ensure children’s voices and their perspectives of disaster risk (what makes them feel safe) were included in disaster recovery plans.
    • Safer and more resilient conditions for children and women;
      In India, UNICEF has been working with local people on a Community-Based Disaster Preparedness project. Villagers, including women and girls, identify their different risks, coordinate local early warning systems and conduct rescue and evacuation drills. In this way, a well prepared community can help save women and girl’s lives, and reduce the scale of disaster impact that includes malnutrition and disease.
      In drought prone Ethiopia UNICEF has supported the government to strengthen the surveillance and treatment of malnutrition.  In 2008 there were only 500 health centres across the entire country. 12,000 treatment points now cover 98.5 per cent of food insecure villages. As a result of this health system being in place the mortality rate among boys and girls under five has dropped to 0.4 per cent and in 2011 Ethiopia largely avoided the worst impacts of the drought.
    • Strengthened humanitarian preparedness, response and early recovery. 
      In Central Asia, UNICEF partnered with the European Commission and others to implement a national level program that trained 10,000 teachers and disaster management officials on school safety. 380,000 girls and boys were taught skills to ensure their safety at school in the face of disaster, including emergency drills and ‘duck and cover’ exercises.

4. Calls to action on International Day for DDR

  • Disaster Risk Reduction saves lives and money.
  • Ensuring schools are safe and that children are taught about DRR should be a priority. Safe school buildings, emergency drills and teaching girls life skills such as first aid can make all the difference.
  • Engaging children, especially girls, when mobilising communities towards DRR is vital; children’s participation contributes perspectives and solutions different to those of adults.
  • Girls and women have specific needs and rights before, during and after disasters; this must always be taken into account for DRR.
  • Building the capacities and resilience of girls and women strengthen whole families and communities in the face of disasters.


(1)  Mitchell, T., Mechler, R. and Harris, K., 2012, Tackling Exposure: Placing disaster risk management at the heart of national economic and fiscal policy, Climate and Development Knowledge Network.



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