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UN formulates Children's Charter for safety during disasters

May 14, 2011

Children in disasters prone countries have ranked safe schools as their top priority during an emergency, says a new research. The findings of the research have gone into a 5-point Charter by the United Nations for disaster risk reduction among children.

 

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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

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 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.

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