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UNICEF, DSWD boost early learning for young children in Albay

© UNICEF Philippines/2009/Alquinto
UNICEF Representative Vanessa Tobin in a light moment with Albay day care students whose classrooms were rehabilitated after the 2006 typhoons.

UNICEF, the UN Children’s Agency, along with DSWD, officially inaugurated two early learning centers in Albay province recently. This brings to 55 the total number of centers UNICEF has rehabilitated or constructed in the disaster-prone areas of region IVB and V.

“These areas were badly hit by the super typhoons of 2006, and many of the classrooms and day care centers were destroyed,” explained UNICEF early childhood development specialist Fe Nogra-Abog.  “UNICEF was asked to assist in rehabilitation of the centers as well as looking at better disaster preparedness, and with the support of the Government of Sweden, we responded.”

Since 2006, UNICEF has rehabilitated and rebuilt 55 early learning centers and 72 elementary and high school buildings. Some of these buildings have improved design so they can be easily adapted as evacuation centers if needed. For this year, UNICEF is helping rebuild 23 more school buildings and 30 day care centers. The agency is also supporting training on disaster risk reduction for local community leaders, day care workers and teachers, so when disaster strikes again, they will be better prepared.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremonies in the first center in Barangay Gajo, Albay, UNICEF country representative, Ms Vanessa Tobin remarked: “We hope that this support will kick start the development of young children and give them a good start in life”.
Also attending from DSWD, Secretary Esperanza Cabral stated: “What this shows is how a community can pull together after disaster strikes. Many of these communities were devastated after the super typhoons of 2006, but with hard work and good co-operation, they have built back their communities and schools stronger and better than before.”

UNICEF’s assistance in building schools and day care centers in disaster-affected areas is more than construction. It is about building capacity of the community to respond quickly and to also be better prepared next time disaster strikes.

“Education is not just about learning and surviving in times of emergencies, but it is very important in reducing the effects of trauma, by bringing back order, structure and normalcy into the lives of traumatized children,” Tobin adds.

For the children of these new centers, they can look forward to a new school year in a safe, exciting and stimulating environment, and will be better prepared to survive and thrive once they enter school.



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