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Protecting our children when disaster strikes: Education in Emergencies

ANTIGUA, 16 October 2018 - After crises occur it is vitally important to get children back to school as quickly as possible, providing a return to normality, continuity and hope.


With the aim of supporting partners to implement the Caribbean Safe School Initiative, a recent major regional training workshop brought together experts and practitioners to improve preparedness and response in education systems, strengthen capacity, reduce post-disaster impact on children, and ensure their right to a continued education.  


Held in Antigua and Barbud, the three-day Education in Emergencies training was regional in scope and ambition with participants from 12 eastern Caribbean countries and territories joined by counterparts from Belize, Brazil, Haiti, Guyana, Jamaica and Suriname.  Child protection and education officers - who need to work together in preparedness and response – attended alongside representatives from national disaster offices.  


The workshop was requested by country partners following a Lessons learned: learning together conference, held in May 2018, aimed at reflecting on the emergency response during the Caribbean’s turbulent 2017 hurricane season.


A milestone


“This training is a milestone in the eastern Caribbean, with education and child protection sectors working together to protect our children and adolescents during the most vulnerable situations, in a very disaster prone region,” said Unai Secona, Education Manager in UNICEF’s Office for the Eastern Caribbean.   


Participants at the lively event shared experiences and good practice, worked on increasing coordination between ministries of education and partners at all levels, and built technical knowledge around child protection, psychosocial support, and core cross-cutting issues such as water and sanitation control. There were also moves to embed disaster risk management training and programmes in formal school curricula.  


Powerful motivation


The gathering was seen as providing a powerful motivation for all the participating countries to develop Education in Emergency plans in the region.


According to David Cool, Education Officer and Champion for Disaster Risk Management in Dominica’s Ministry of Education, “As climate change continues to impact small island states like ours…we have become increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters. The need to find ways to mitigate such phenomena is paramount, hence the training could not have come at a better time to explore best approaches in education and child protection sectors.” He added, “We, however, need to collaborate our efforts in order to protect children and adolescents and ensure that the standards are the same across the region.”  


The event was organised by UNICEF (Eastern Caribbean, Regional Office and Headquarters) in partnership with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the European Union / ECHO, Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector, IsraAID, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, UNESCO, and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) with representatives from the Caribbean Development Bank, the UNDP, UN WOMEN and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).





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