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Disaster readiness training for the children of Uzbekistan

By Rob McBride

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 2 November 2011 – At the Kimyogar summer camp, in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan, a boy winced with pain as a nurse applied a bandage to his arm. Around them, a group of children watched intently, listening as the nurse explained how to attend to his injury.

UNICEF correspondent Rob McBride reports on a programme that helps children to prepare for and cope with disasters.  Watch in RealPlayer


But smiles in the audience showed that this patient’s pain was just a performance, and a very good one at that. Still, the children were learning valuable skills that might someday save lives.

This first-aid demonstration was part of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) training, a series of drills and lessons about how to react during natural disasters and other emergency situations. To ensure maximum impact, each of the lessons contained an element of student participation, from practising dormitory evacuations during earthquake drills to learning how to properly don respirators.

“After we go outside, we gather in the area they tell us so they can make sure we are all accounted for,” explained Ravshan Kasimov, 11, after an evacuation drill at the annual two-week camp. In addition to the earthquake drill, Ravshan had also taken part in a flood drill and a lesson in how to extinguish small fires while summoning help.

© UNICEF video
Children at a camp in Uzbekistan learn the basics of disaster preparedness. The programme is supported by UNICEF and the European Commission.

Critical training

It is critical that the children of Uzbekistan be prepared for such emergencies. A powerful 1966 earthquake all but destroyed Tashkent, the capital. More recently, in July of this year, a powerful tremor measuring more than six on the Richter scale claimed 13 lives in the Fergana Valley. Global climate change is also expected to influence the severity and frequency of weather events.

To ensure children are able to protect themselves in these events, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO) and UNICEF are supporting DRR training throughout the education system.

Thus far, over 5,000 teachers and 350,000 students have undergone training. And by all accounts, the programme appears effective and sustainable.

“What’s really most impressive is the ownership that the Government has taken of this programme,” said UNICEf Social Policy and Economic Specialist Linda Saturno. “This is a programme that was initiated by UNICEF last summer. This year, UNICEF is providing only minor support to this effort.”

© UNICEF video
UNICEF and the European Commission support summer camps in Uzbekistan showing children how to keep themselves safe during a natural disaster.

Promoting national risk-reduction strategies

UNICEF also advocates for the integration of DRR strategies into the overall national development agenda and is assisting regional governments in the development of action plans for keeping communities, rural health points, schools and kindergartens safe in an event of major disasters.

“UNICEF cannot limit our interventions only to schools and students,” said Ms. Saturno. “So in working with the Government, we have expanded our efforts to working with community leaders, in coming together in the event of a disaster.”

Children like Madina Ganieva, 10, are prepared to do their part for their communities. Madina had experienced a small earthquake before initiating DRR training at Kimyogar. Now, with training, she is better prepared for such events.

“It was a small quake and I slept through it,” she explained. “My Mum told me about it afterwards, and I think we are now prepared if a big one happens.”



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