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AZERBAIJAN: Puppets teach children safety against natural disasters

© UNICEF Azerbaijan/Mammadli/2011

BAKU, July 2011 - Enhancing the skills of children in disaster preparedness is the major aim of UNICEF-supported puppet shows being performed in Azerbaijan in July.
About 1000 children in addition to parents and community members attended puppet shows in Baku and Sheki the last week of July.
Educating children on how to get better prepared for and respond to disasters is part of the DIPECHO  project, which is being implemented in Azerbaijan by UNICEF,  Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Education with the support of DIPECHO, which is an EU programme dedicated to disaster preparedness, which funds projects in disaster-prone regions around the world.
The project aims to improve disaster preparedness and response in the country and thus to reduce the impact of natural disasters on the most vulnerable communities, especially children and women living in disaster prone areas.
The landscape, climate and infrastructure make Azerbaijan highly vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes, seasonal floods and landslides, as well as man-made disasters. Every year floods and landslides cause significant damage to agriculture in rural areas, to infrastructure in urban areas and human casualties.
To ensure sustainability, UNICEF is currently promoting the inclusion of disaster risk reduction into formal school curricula, under this project it has also developed training and learning programmes for teachers and children on how to reduce risk at a school and community level.  The puppets shows use humour and examples of local hazards to teach all participants about correct behaviours before, during and after a hazard, for example to, 'drop, cover and hold' during an earthquake, the importance of fire safety and even road traffic rules.
“Children are important first because they are the most vulnerable in a disaster, but also because they possess unique abilities to contribute to the creation of a culture of safety and prevention,” says UNICEF Representative in Azerbaijan Mark Hereward.
“Teaching about disaster risk reduction needs to start with children, and to involve parents and other community members as well. Disaster risks can be reduced and the resilience of communities can be achieved only through knowledge and education,” he said.

The Government of Azerbaijan, has been actively engaged in strengthening national capacities for disaster preparedness and risk reduction. Efforts are underway to ensure a systematic approach in identifying and assessing the risks and minimizing the socio-economic impact of disasters on children through the application of more holistic and integrated strategies for education.



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