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Facts for Life

Emergencies: preparedness and reponse

Supporting Information


Children have the right to education, even during emergencies. Having children attend a safe, child-friendly school helps to reinforce their sense of normalcy and start the process of healing.

Regular routines, such as going to school and maintaining normal eating and sleeping schedules, give children a sense of security and continuity.

Child-friendly schools and spaces can provide a protective and safe learning environment for all children coping with an emergency.

With support from families and communities, teachers and school administrators can help:

  • provide a safe, structured place for children to learn and play
  • identify children who are experiencing stress, trauma or family separation and provide basic psychosocial support
  • provide a daily routine and a sense of the future beyond the emergency
  • ensure that children retain and develop basic literacy and numeracy skills
  • provide children with life-saving health and security information and skills to reduce their risks
  • provide a place for expression through play, sports, music, drama and art
  • facilitate integration of vulnerable children into the school and community
  • support networking and interaction with and among families
  • provide children with an understanding of human rights and skills for living in peace
  • build awareness with children on how to protect the environment and develop their skills to reduce disaster risks
  • encourage children to analyse information, express opinions and take action on particular issues important to them.

Teachers require support and training to understand and deal with children's and their own stressful experiences, losses and reactions to emergencies. They need to know how to give emotional, mental and spiritual support to students and guide families on how to do the same with their children.

Schools and communities can also help to organize fun activities for children outside of school time. Opportunities can be created for organized non-violent play, sports and other forms of recreation. Communication and interaction among peers should be encouraged and supported. Use of arts such as drawing, or playing with toys or puppets, can help young children express their concerns and adjust to stressful experiences.

Parents and other caregivers should keep children who become sick with the flu or other infectious disease at home or in their place of residence if displaced from their homes.

In case of a severe epidemic that spreads rapidly from person to person, local authorities and education personnel need to make appropriate decisions regarding how to protect children. As a public health measure, classes may be suspended to reduce spread of the disease. In such cases, education can still continue by using alternative strategies. This requires good planning and follow-up by education personnel in collaboration with the students' families.