The Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, Senator Loren Legarda, today said that children should be made part of the efforts in making communities resilient to disasters, noting that 39 of the 83 casualties during typhoon Pedring were children.
Legarda made the statement as the world observes the International Day for Disaster Reduction on October 13.
“In Asia, the recent devastating floods claimed the lives of many, including a significant number of children. In Cambodia’s worst floods in a decade, 83 of the 207 casualties were children. Thailand’s worst floods in fifty years left at least 635 schools damaged. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s worst floods in history claimed more than 400 lives and affected 2.5 million children,” said Legarda.
She added that based on statistics, an estimated 66.5 million children are affected annually by disasters. Recognizing the role of children and young people in building disaster-resilient communities can put an end to this trend and turn them from victims to heroes.
“We recall the story of Tilly Smith, an 11-year-old British schoolgirl who learned tsunami early warning signs at school. Smith saved her family and other people in Phuket, Thailand during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami by evacuating early when she observed receding waters. Tilly was able to save her family because she was equipped with the necessary information on natural hazards,” Legarda said.
However, the Senator explained that it is also important to make communities safe enough that children are shielded from disasters.
“Information is our children’s personal shield from natural hazards, but a safe community is their greatest defense against disasters. For instance, they may know what to do when earthquakes strike, but when they happen to be in a building with structural defects the risks will only be greater,” she pointed out.
Legarda, who is the UNISDR champion for the Asia Pacific Region, said that aChildren’s Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction, identified through consultations with more than 600 children in 21 countries, was launched to highlight five priorities:
· Schools must be safe – education must be uninterrupted
· Child protection must be a priority, before, during and after a disaster
· Children and young people have the right to participate and to access the information they need
· Community infrastructure must be safe, and relief and reconstruction must help reduce future disaster risk
· Disaster risk reduction must reach the most vulnerable
“Children and young people need to be empowered and supported as agents of social inclusion and safety. When we create an enabling environment for children to witness and practice DRR early on in life, we inculcate in them a level of disaster preparedness that will be passed on to the succeeding generations when they become adults,” Legarda stressed.***
Office of Senator Loren Legarda
RM.209, Senate of the Philippines,
GSIS Bldg. Pasay City