Europe and Central Asia has a history of natural hazards – including flooding, earthquakes and landslides – that have often escalated into humanitarian and economic disasters, with the loss of lives, homes, schools and other essential services, as well as livelihoods.
A community’s ability to prepare for and cope with natural hazards can prevent disasters and save lives. But when a community is unprepared, and unable to cope, the result can be massive loss of life and the undermining of decades of social and economic progress, especially for children.
A lack of child-sensitive disaster risk reduction (DRR) plans leaves children vulnerable to hazards.
Monitoring, forecasting and early warning of natural hazards are all gaining ground in the region, but have not been matched sufficiently by disaster risk reduction (DRR) measures to equip communities with the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves. Few countries in the region have comprehensive and child-sensitive DRR plans in place, and too few communities know exactly what to do when a natural hazard strikes.
While it is encouraging that more governments are investing in measures to meet the needs of people at risk of emergencies, they are not yet addressing the specific vulnerabilities of children and women, including those with disabilities and special needs. Families may not know where to turn for guidance, and it is crucial to strengthen information and awareness, as well as technical skills.
Looking ahead: natural hazards are likely to increase.
Natural hazards in the region are likely to increase as a result of climate change and environmental degradation. More extreme weather events, coupled with poor preparedness in communities, can only increase the risks of humanitarian disasters.
As always, children – who often account for more than half of all disaster victims – will be affected disproportionately.