JULY has been designated as National Disaster Resilience Month to raise awareness on the need for building resilience across national and local levels. But we have one particular concern – children. They face the highest risks of death, injury and disease in times of emergencies.
Globally, there are 535 million children, or one in four living in countries prone to disasters, according to the World Risk Report of 2018. The Philippines ranks third on the list of the 171 disaster-prone countries, next to the island-nations of Vanuatu and Toga. It is thus proper to strengthen disaster preparedness in schools and communities. Local governments should invest in building resilience of children as part of climate change adaptation strategy.
Children’s rights to proper healthcare, access to education and protection from violence must be ensured at all times, especially during emergencies. Disasters such as earthquakes, massive flooding and severe typhoons take a heavy toll on children’s lives, particularly those in deprived and marginalized situations.
Child protection and child participation should be at the core of disaster preparedness systems in schools and communities. Save the Children Philippines advocated the passage of Republic Act 10821 or the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act that directs national and local government agencies to implement and sustain comprehensive emergency program to protect children from disasters and emergencies. The law prioritizes the protection of children, pregnant and lactating mothers during disaster and emergency situations. It also prevents the prolonged use of schools as evacuation centers to allow children to resume classes.
More than 11 million school children have been affected by major disasters from 2007 to 2012, based on figures from the Department of Education. Schools and local authorities must integrate children’s rights to participate in developing policies that affect them, including disaster preparedness.