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School emergency preparedness program launched

© UNICEF Malaysia/2006/Nadchatram
UNICEF Malaysia Representative, Gaye Phillips and Ministry of Education Director-General, Dato' Dr. Hj. Ahamad Sipon launch the School Emergency Preparedness Program. Looking on is Kedah State Education Deputy Director.

KUALA MUDA KEDAH, Malaysia, 10 August 2006 – In recognition of the important role schools have in providing a safe and protective environment for children, Malaysia’s Ministry of Education (MOE) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have joined hands to introduce an Emergency Preparedness Program for schools, less than two years after the Indian Ocean tsunami. The program was launched by MOE Director-General, Datuk Dr. Hj. Ahamad bin Sipon and UNICEF Representative to Malaysia, Gaye Phillips in the Kota Kuala Muda Kedah Secondary School today.

Illustrating how a young girl’s knowledge of a tsunami helped save the lives of many around her in Thailand when the tsunami struck on 24 December 2004, Dato' Dr. Hj. Ahamad stressed the importance of information in helping young people prepare for a disaster. 

“School communities that have emergency preparedness plans in place can minimise the likelihood of death or injury and possibly influence a more positive outcome than would otherwise have occurred should a disaster strike. To be effective, schools would require emergency or crisis plans that will address actions to be taken before, during and after an emergency,” he said.

Minimising the risk of death and injury

The MOE-UNICEF program will comprise various activities that would ensure school children and their families know what to do, are protected from danger and death, and that the safety equipment required is available when needed during an emergency situation. The multi-pronged program will develop practical guidelines for emergency preparedness planning for schoolchildren, covering natural and man-made disasters. Common to the region and Malaysia are floods, landslides, haze, fires, earthquakes, tsunami and disease outbreaks such as Avian flu.

To manage the variety of situations, school communities will be trained and familiarised with Emergency Preparedness and Planning practices so that they are better equipped to cope with an emergency situation arising from a disaster. The two components to the MOE-UNICEF collaboration to achieve these objectives are: 

  • Emergency preparedness plan for Ministry of Education officials and educators under the Educational Planning and Research Division’s supervision.
  • Development of emergency preparedness guidelines for schoolchildren under the supervision of the Schools Division. 

Restoring normalcy to children’s lives

According to UNICEF’s Representative to Malaysia, Gaye Phillips, schools are the best choice for such awareness and support programs as schools are both a place of learning as well as a safe and neutral space for post recovery psychosocial programs.

“In emergencies, schooling is a means of restoring a sense of normalcy to the lives of children and can help them overcome psychological and other forms of distress. The special psychosocial needs of children affected by emergencies is an area receiving increasing attention”, she said.

Prevention, best disaster action

© UNICEF Malaysia/2006/Nadchatram
Teachers and education officials from across the country participating in a week-long workshop to develop an Emergency Preparedness Manual for schools.

A workshop for education officials to develop an Emergency Preparedness Manual was held in the days preceeding the launch. Thirty participants representing State and District Education Departments from across the country attended the training activity. On hand to assist them understand the nature of disasters and how to prepare for it were emergency preparedness experts from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defense, Royal Malaysian Police, Fire & Rescue Services Department and local humanitarian relief NGOs, the Malaysian Red Crescent Society and MERCY Malaysia. As a result of the workshop, a framework for the emergency preparedness guidelines has been developed. The framework also takes into account the special needs of children living with disability.

“We cannot easily undo the damage of a tsunami on an unprepared school or turn back the clock after a flood has swept away a child’s school term. Through this Program, we want to encourage schools and communities to work together before a disaster strikes”, said Phillips in expressing UNICEF’s commitment to the Government of Malaysia to support it not only in the aftermath of a disaster, but in preparing for one.

She added, “As always, prevention is the best disaster action”.  






Dato' Dr. Hj. Ahamad bin Sipon
Ministry of Education, Malaysia
(Speech in Malay language)
Read (PDF)

Gaye Phillips
UNICEF Representative, Malaysia
UNICEF Special Representative, Singapore & Brunei
Read (PDF)


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