Emergency Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness and Response


Emergency Preparedness and Response

© UNICEF Jamaica 2004; Hoad
A mother and her children in the community of Portland Cottage survey the damage done by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

UNICEF’s mandate commits it to ensure special protection for the most disadvantaged children – those who are victims of war, disasters, extreme poverty, all forms of violence and exploitation.

While children in emergency situations have the same needs and rights as children in stable situations, the vulnerability of children in emergencies increases significantly. Emergency preparedness activities are an integral part of the Policy, Advocacy, Special Care and Protection programme.

UNICEF Jamaica’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan envisages three major threats and risks which could produce emergency related scenarios:

1. Natural disasters
Jamaica, as a Caribbean island, is prone to natural disasters.  Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and hurricanes Dennis and Emily in 2005, have reminded us of Jamaica's great vulnerability to hurricanes. A sizable earthquake could do considerable damage to infrastructure and could result in displacement and homelessness among large sections of the population. Movement of the tectonic plates is not uncommon, but the last major earthquake occurred nearly a century ago (1907). Regular floods affect people and communities across the island.
2. Social vulnerability and violence
The level of disparities and the increasing violence put the country at greater socio-economic vulnerability that may be further exacerbated by increases in key global commodities such as oil and electricity and less favourable trade agreements.
3. Influx of refugees from neighbouring countries
Deep poverty and political instability in Haiti, has triggered a trickle of refugees into the island. Differences in culture, language and health and education status between the Haitian and Jamaican populations require that a specific emergency response be put in place for the Haitian refugees.

UNICEF Jamaica’s Response to Emergencies in Jamaica 

UNICEF Jamaica’s response covers both aspects of preparedness and response, in support of national efforts led by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Response (ODPEM).  UNICEF’s response:

 *Recognises the priority of humanitarian action while assuring safe access to affected populations and safety and security of staff and assets

 *Builds on existing activities and partnerships developed through the country programme of cooperation.

 *Is based on nationally defined priorities and UNICEF’s comparative advantage.

After the passage of Hurricanes Dennis and Emily in July 2005 UNICEF partnered with the Jamaican Red Cross (http://www.jamaicaredcross.org/), as well as with partners in Portland, St. Catherine and Clarendon to get first-hand information on the number of children affected and their most urgent needs. UNICEF Jamaica procured and delivered necessary food and drink for 500 families (approximately 1,500 children) who were in 65 shelters in the most affected parishes/regions of the island. 
UNICEF also procured collapsible water containers, Emergency Health Kits, boxes of water purification tablets and boxes of oral rehydration salts. In addition to the Government of Jamaica and the Red Cross, partners included Children First, National Initiative for Street Children and RuFamSo.

Two activities which UNICEF has undertaken, in collaboration with local partners, to enhance preparedness and protect Jamaican children during emergencies are:

1. The development and dissemination of “Guidelines for Child-Friendly Disaster Management and Response” in cooperation with ODEPM. The aim of the publication is to guide planners and implementers in preparing for and responding to an emergency, taking into consideration the needs of children in emergency situations. It is based on UNICEF’s Core Commitments and SPHERE standards and covers areas such as Health, Water and Sanitation, Food and Nutrition, Shelter, Education, Child Protection and Psycho-Social Support. 

The guidelines were developed by a committee of stakeholders including the Child Development Agency, the Planning Institute of Jamaica, the Salvation Army and NGOs 3D Projects and Children First. The booklet was published in partnership with the national disaster response and management agency, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM). The guidelines were officially launched on June 1, the start of the annual hurricane season.

2. The School Emergency Response Capacity Building Project. It aims to strengthen the capacity of 30 schools and their surrounding communities to protect children during emergencies. The project led by ODPEM and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, is being implemented between June 2005 and December 2006.

Major activities under the project are: 

- the development of emergency preparedness and response plans by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture and 30 schools; 

 - training of staff members from the 30 schools and community members in shelter management, vulnerability and capacity assessment, first aid, basic disaster management and developing hazard maps

- developing a system of communication between the Education Ministry, schools, communities and the ODPEM in emergency situations

- establishing Community Emergency Response Teams in the 30 communities where project schools are located 

- packaging and storage of 1000 child friendly emergency kits at ODPEM’s national and regional stores

 - developing educational materials on emergency preparedness and response including disaster preparedness video and workbook




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