Advancing children's resilience to disasters and climate change in Armenia.
A UNICEF supported nationwide school safety assessment showed that 80% of school buildings in Armenia do not conform to building codes and standards, putting over 280,000 students at risk.
Scientific evidence confirms that the devastating effects of climate change will intensify the frequency and scale of natural disasters in years to come. When disaster strikes, children are the most susceptible to risking injury, trauma and survival. Without sustained efforts to reduce risk and build capacity to recoup from disasters, such events can set back hardwon gains achieved in social and economic development. For UNICEF, building resilience at national and local levels is important both for development and as an humanitarian priority. Initiatives that build the resilience of children and their families will strengthen their capacity to better cope with, and adapt to new situations, shocks, or adversity in their communities.
The "safe schools" agenda is a good example of mainstreaming climate and earthquake risk mitigation into the education system, and at the same time, this contributes to ensure gender equality and inclusion of children with disabilities in resilience building. Extracurricular activities involving children and youth in local risk assessments and in risk reduction and climate change adaptation initiatives have a positive effect on overall preparedness efforts. Child-focused disaster risk reduction (DRR) has been a core UNICEF activity in Armenia and in the region for years.
Armenia is among the 60 most disaster prone countries in the world with nearly 110 different hazards. The hazardous circumstances put the whole population and the economy in a vulnerable position.
Studies conducted by UNICEF Armenia and partners from 2012 to 2015, which point out barriers to education include; seismically unsafe schools with deteriorated infrastructure, including damaged roofs, windows, floors and sports facilities, buildings without heating and sanitary conditions, lack of facilities within schools, old furniture, lack of textbooks. Poor conditions of facilities is a major problem, particularly in rural areas and for children with disabilities. School buildings (including facilities such as toilets) and classrooms are often inaccessible to them.
Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all.
The Government with the support of UNICEF and partners has prioritized the integration of DRR into the education curricula and pre and in service teacher training programmes.
UNICEF has supported and advocated for the Government of Armenia to scale up school safety and community resilience and undergo significant commitments in planning and implementing the Sendai Framework for Action by adopting the National Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Strategy.
Community resilience and comprehensive school safety were integrated into key emergency and education strategic documents such as the National DRM Strategy, Child Protection National Strategy for 2017-2021 and the draft State Programme of Education Development for 2018-2030. With UNICEF support the Government developed and institutionalize tools and methodologies enhancing safety of children in schools and communities: the School Disaster Management Guidelines, School Safety Assessment and Module within EMIS, and Child Centred Disaster Risk Analysis based on the Local Level Risk Management tool.
The Government with the support of UNICEF and partners has prioritized the integration of DRR into the education curricula and preand inservice teacher training programmes. More than 70 key provincial emergency and education administrators responsible for overseeing and monitoring school safety were able to support more than 85% of schools in Armenia to enhance the culture of safety and resilience at school level. They were trained to introduce and facilitate effective school disaster management atschools in their respective provinces.
The Armenian Government prioritized mainstreaming DRR into the community developmental plans, and embedded disaster risk reduction into local municipality’s obligations through amending the Law on Self Government. The Local Level Risk Management (LLRM) methodology enables communities to identify local level hazards, vulnerabilities and exposure, helping them to prioritize local risks and reflect risk reduction and mitigation measures in the respective community social development plans. Capaci- ty development of regional emergency and territorial development authorities in introducing LLRM was a key driver in this change.
Why are these efforts needed?
Still many children are unaware of what they need to know and do to avoid injuries and death during a natural disaster or other major crisis situations.
The Government is focusing only on the schools with 400 or more students leaving out smaller schools, especially in rural areas and small communities.
Combined with the difficult socio-economic situation of households, the limited resources in education affects access to and quality of learning and have a negative effect on small rural communities in particular.
Gaps in financing, data, and legislation remains a continued challenges.