Children’s Charter - ‘what we need to stay safe in disasters’.
Children in disaster prone countries have named safer school buildings as a top priority in emergencies, new research has found.
The research involving more than 600 children in 21 countries identified education, child protection and access to basic information as the main needs to reduce the devastating impact of disasters and climate change upon their families and communities.
The findings have now gone into a new 5-point Charter to be presented to those gathering for the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction meeting in Geneva on 9-13 May.
Governments, donors and international agencies will be asked to sign, support and report back on the Charter which states:
• Schools must be safe and education must not be interrupted
• Child protection must be a priority before, during and after a disaster
• Children’s right to participate and access to information must be met
• Community infrastructure must be safe, and relief and reconstruction must help reduce future risk
• Disaster risk reduction must reach the most vulnerable
Safer schools top priority
In the research, children asked for schools to be built in safer places and on higher ground in flood and tsunami-vulnerable regions. They also called for protection of vital learning materials, safe places to play and learn and swift relocation and rebuilding of schools when required. They also wanted sturdier infrastructure like better roads and bridges in their communities.
They also asked to be given more life-saving information about what to do when disasters struck and asked for better protection of children and the most vulnerable including psycho-social support after disasters. Children identified gaps in existing protection systems. They gave examples of children, including some with disabilities, being ‘locked in homes’ and unable to access basic information needed for survival.
Children and climate change
Children make up more than half the population in countries predicted to be most affected by climate change and are facing increasing impacts from disastrous events. It is estimated that by 2030, 175 million children a year will be affected by disasters.
UNICEF, Plan International, World Vision and Save the Children (working together as Children in a Changing Climate) along with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies say it is essential to include children’s unique experiences of climate change impact in both adaptation and mitigation policy and practice.
The Coalition calls for governments to ensure children’s rights, needs and capacities are fully recognised in any future agreements. It recommends that their priorities are reflected in existing and new policies and programmes dealing with disasters and development.
“Our work shows that children need to be involved in decision-making because they are very concerned about the state of the environment and impact of disasters. They take a long term view and they are passionate about turning ideas into action. Moreover, children are future leaders and decision makers– those involved today will become a generation better prepared for disasters of tomorrow,” said Dr Nick Hall, Plan’s Disaster Risk Reduction Advisor.
The consultations were held in Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Philippines, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and Vietnam.
Find out more at: www.ChildreninaChangingClimate.org
Selected quotes from children taking part in the consultation:
“I felt unhappy when I saw the school destroyed by the storm. I did not go to school because the school was destroyed. It happened at night and in the morning my friend and I went to school and found it had been destroyed.” (child from Lao PDR)
“Build bridges because every year children miss school in the rainy season when they have to cross gullies, rivers and water channels huge enough to drown them.” (child from Lesotho)
On child protection:
“We do not feel protected by anyone in our community.” (child from Mozambique). In India, children suggested training in life-skills which they feel would “enable them to protect themselves from risks and troubles” and that they be provided special care when they are traumatized by disasters.
“Children and people with disability…are considered a ‘curse’ and… kept indoors…deprived of the right to participate and education, hence they become more vulnerable.’” (child from Lesotho)
On the vulnerable:
“In my area, there were three children about 4-5 years old. Once they went on the river dyke to avoid the flood water but they slipped and fell in the river and drowned because they could not swim.” (child from Philippines)
Children in a Changing Climate is a coalition of leading child-focused research, development and humanitarian organisations each with a commitment to share knowledge, coordinate activities and work with children as agents of change.
We are committed to effective protection and meaningful participation of children and young people in our changing climate. www.ChildreninaChangingClimate.org