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Helping children be prepared for natural disasters in Uzbekistan

UNICEF Image: Uzbekistan, earthquake, safety, education
© UNICEF video
Students in Uzbekistan practice safety measures in the event of an earthquake. Here, a young girl follows instructions to "drop, cover and hold."

By Guy Degen

FERGHANA, Uzbekistan, 27 May 2009 – Pupils at Secondary School Number Three in Ferghana know the dangers posed by natural disasters in their region. Uzbekistan is prone to earthquakes as well as landslides, flooding, mudflows and man-made disasters.

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A powerful earthquake during school hours could kill or injure large numbers of children. Because of this, teachers now regularly hold training drills in class for children to practice seeking out safe places within buildings if an earthquake strikes.

The children are learning important information, not only for themselves, but also to take home and share with their families and communities.

Reducing risks to save lives

Through a partnership with the European Commission, UNICEF is seeking to reduce the risks posed by natural and man-made disasters in Uzbekistan. More than 300 schools in 36 vulnerable communities are now working to assess and mitigate the risk of disasters.

UNICEF has also delivered nine minivans to Civil Protection Training Centres in nine regions to help extend the reach of their training programmes to remote villages.

“This Disaster Risk Reduction project began providing training equipment and other major supplies that have dramatically helped support training sessions,” said the head of the Civil Protection Training Centre in Ferghana, Tokhtasin Yusupov.

UNICEF Image: Uzbekistan, earthquake, safety, education
© UNICEF video
In addition to learning about natural disasters and what causes them, children prepare by performing emergency drills in their classrooms.

“This leads to greater disaster awareness. It is obvious that if local communities improve knowledge, experience and skills in emergency prevention and response, more lives will be saved.”

An integrated approach

Under the project, UNICEF and the European Commission are helping Uzbekistan's emergency services to coordinate their disaster-response planning.

Schools are also reinforcing training drills by integrating the study of natural disasters throughout their curriculum, so that when the project ends, the knowledge is passed on.

“In our physics class, we learned about the interconnecting forces that cause disasters, which happen a lot in our region. If an earthquake strikes, without panicking, we simply ‘drop, cover and hold,’” explained Hushnoza Orifjonova, 13.

Women and children vulnerable

Currently, the pilot project is focusing on Uzbek provinces that are most at risk.

“Women and children are the most vulnerable in any disaster,” said UNICEF Representative in Uzbekistan Mahboob Shareef. “We are helping people help themselves in some of the most remote communities and are boosting the government's disaster-preparedness plans.”

As a result of these activities, it is hoped that people in communities at risk will be better prepared and protected – and that local education authorities in Uzbekistan will be able to assist in local risk reduction and respond more effectively to natural disasters.




UNICEF's Guy Degen reports on disaster risk reduction efforts in Uzbekistan.
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