Let every child be empowered with knowledge for emergencies

UNICEF works with the government and other partners to provide urgent aid during disasters – and to equip young people with potentially life-saving knowledge.

Lely Djuhari - UNICEF Communication Specialist
Mega & Chila, children with disabilities in UNICEF tent
21 February 2019

Indonesia is no stranger to natural disasters and its citizens know that they can strike at any time. Given the country’s location – at the heart of the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire – it’s critical to ensure that aid is ready and available for when disasters hit. But just as important is preparing young people for emergency situations by empowering them with knowledge.

Events such as earthquakes and tsunamis are terrifying and traumatic enough for able-bodied men and women – but what of people with disabilities? Children with disabilities are painfully vulnerable and more likely to be severely affected than those without disabilities.

This is why inclusive disaster risk reduction matters so much. It ensures that the needs of people with disabilities are also considered in risk mitigation planning – and it’s why UNICEF supports schools with emergency preparedness and also advocates for provincial and district-level budgeting for disaster risk reduction programmes in schools for children with disabilities. Will you support UNICEF in this work?

Margarina Yasinta, a teacher at a school from children with disabilities.
Margarina Yasinta, a teacher at a school from children with disabilities, leads her students to sing an uplifting song “At a school tent, we are joyful and wherever we study we are happy.” UNICEF has already sent a first batch of 200 ‘schools in a tent’, 200 ‘school in a box’ kits and 50 Early Childhood Education kits. UNICEF was the first UN agency to reach the affected populations of Central Sulawesi with essential emergency supplies.

One of the many facilities that UNICEF and partners have helped with emergency preparedness is a school for children with disabilities. Some of the children have learning difficulties and others, visual or hearing impairments.

Visiting this school weeks after a major earthquake had struck was testament to how important it is for all children – including those with disabilities – to return to class as soon as it is safe to do so after disasters strike. This is one of the most important steps in restoring a sense of normality to life.

The students were clapping their hands in tune, playing games and sharing stories of what had happened to them in the weeks following the quake. Hearing impaired Silvana Mega Sari Longe, 17, smiled as she used signed language to say how glad she was to see her friend again. She added that she’s happy to be back at school – even if it’s only for an hour or two every day.

School principal, Pak Jaya expressed gratitude that they had all had survived. Ironically, he had been organizing an emergency preparedness drill just a week before a major earthquake struck.

“I had invited about 100 people – members of the community, our students, teachers, their parents and a nearby school to come and talk about the importance of disaster preparedness. Particularly when the students in my school have disabilities, they need to be supported by others,” he said.

“Mega may not hear the siren or her friends who are blind may not be able to see the evacuation path,” he added.

Pak Jaya’s concerns are valid. Children who cannot hear, see or navigate the world around them without help must also learn what to do if disaster strikes. UNICEF counts on support from companies, funders – and people like you – to ensure that emergency aid is available to boys and girls with and without disabilities in the event of crises. Will you help children in emergencies through a gift today?

One of the ways in which UNICEF helps to promote the inclusion of people with disability in their communities – including in emergency preparedness efforts – uses sport as a vehicle.

Through sports activities, children with and without disabilities learn to better understand how to respect each other and value effort, teamwork, humility and tolerance. In this way, people begin to “see the child first, before the disability”.

If you’d like to help children with disability to fulfil their rights to inclusion, your donation today will be greatly appreciated!