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Training of teachers on how to give psychosocial support in emergencies key to effective disaster preparedness, says UNICEF Iran Representative

TEHRAN, 15 October 2007 – Training teachers and counselors on how to give psychosocial support to children and their families before a disaster strikes should be an essential element of any emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction program, Christian Salazar, UNICEF’s Representative in Iran, said today.

Speaking at a conference organized by the Iran Interior Ministry’s National Disaster Task Force on the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction on 10 October, Mr Salazar said that most disaster-affected populations were able to recover from their experience and return to normalcy provided that security was restored and they had access to basic information and the skills to help themselves.

“Iran has great capacity in addressing the ‘physical’ needs of the population in times of disasters. However, more needs to be done to also address the emotional distress that children and the community experience following emergencies,” Mr Salazar said.

The Head of UNICEF Iran singled out three activities that are in line with effective disaster risk reduction:

• developing child protection principles in emergencies for social workers;
• preparing prefabricated schools for emergencies, which – due to the speed of their assembly – can ensure a quick return of children to a normal school routine and thus help reduce emotional harm to them; and
• the scheduled training by UNICEF Iran of a total of 180 Ministry of Education counselors on principles of psychosocial support before and during emergencies.

“Another important step is to put measures into place to reunify families as fast as possible, so as to reduce further harm to children that have suffered a disaster,” Mr Salazar added.

UNICEF Iran’s activities in the field of disaster preparedness are in line with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), which aims to raise awareness on disaster risk reduction worldwide. The 2006-2007 campaign by ISDR and UNESCO focuses on disaster risk reduction in schools.

ISDR’s publication for International Disaster Risk Reduction this year specifically mentions Iran to be at a ‘relatively advanced stage’ and cites the running of the 8th national drill this year under the “Annual School Earthquake and Safety Initiative” covering all primary, middle and high schools (130,000) covering 14 million school children. A separate publication also highlights UNICEF Iran’s emergency pre-fab school design and psychosocial support as “good practices” for emergency preparedness programs.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.



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