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Children need greater involvement in disaster risk reduction

ISTANBUL, Turkey, 1 March 2013 – This week governments, experts and child rights advocates across Central Asia and the South Caucasus highlighted the importance of engaging children and schools to help communities reduce disaster risk.  

Participants exchanged knowledge in disaster risk reduction with a particular focus on the education sector during the meeting. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan presented experiences under the UNICEF Disaster Risk Reduction programme, funded by the DIPECHO (Disaster Preparedness ECHO) project under the European Union (European Commission's Humanitarian aid and Civil Protection Directorate General (ECHO). Croatia also described how they set up and manage their National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The two regions have been experiencing increased exposure and vulnerability to extreme cold weather, heat waves, floods, land- and mudslides, avalanches, forest fires and earthquakes in the past few years. Earthquakes are the most dangerous of all hazards, killing and injuring children, destroying schools and other infrastructure, and impeding access to education. Moreover, such disasters set back hard won development gains.

In Turkey, progress has been made in integrating disaster risk reduction into national education policies, programmes and curriculum, thereby allowing children to learn about hazards and simple measures such as dock, cover and hold in the event of an earthquake. Resource materials, including training manuals, teaching methodologies, and teaching materials were presented and seen in practice during the visit to Hasdal Primary school.

Kyrgyzstan`s Ministry of Education presented the ongoing nationwide school safety assessment based on the methodology initially developed by UNICEF as part of its DIPECHO-funded programme in 2010-2011. The Government has made resources available for this exercise and commits to establish clear roles for mitigating the impact of the possible disasters on schools through risk reduction measures, such as retrofitting school building and establishing school disaster management teams. 

Georgia and Kazakhstan also presented a review of their policy changes, resulting in better preparedness to respond to disasters at the school and community level. Turkmenistan, which joined the UNICEF DIPECHO-funded project in 2012, is revising the national education curricula with clear disaster risk reduction elements being integrated with the support of UNICEF.  

Examples of working with children with special needs in Armenia showed that children can be involved as active agents of change in their communities. Save the Children’s focus in Armenia has been exclusively on all special schools and special institutions as a group that has not been addressed previously in disaster risk reduction.

These gatherings taking place biannually since 2011 have been effective in promoting country-to-country learning and leveraging national efforts in risk reduction within the region. ‘This event has been a truly unique opportunity to come together as a region to exchange knowledge and experience for building a safer future for children in South Caucasus and Central Asia’ said Ms. Ketevan Lomsadze, Programme Officer, ECHO Georgia.

Innovative approaches to promote child participation, such as school based hazard mapping, are encouraged so that children are not seen as helpless victims but as active participants in making communities safer and resilient. 



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