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Children can play an important role in disaster preparedness

Children can play an important role in disaster preparedness

by Amir Murtaza
August 18, 2013

Last ten years the country has witnessed disasters of huge proportion – both natural and manmade. While the loss of life and property was insurmountable, it is equally disturbing to see a high number of children at the receiving end. Be it the huge number of lives lost when schools collapsed during 2005 earthquake or the recurrent cases of drowning and electrocution we see each year in monsoon season, a number of children die or suffer lifelong disabilities.

This year, excessive rainfall has also created disaster like situation in many parts of Pakistan. Heavy monsoon downpours have caused the deaths of many people, including children.

Over the period of time the country has developed mechanisms, at government and non-government level, to manage and mitigate the disaster’s effects. However, the need to improve the systems is still required. Some important steps that should be taken on priority basis are construction of safe schools to protect children in case of emergencies like fire or earthquake or reducing the risks of open sewers and live wires during rains. With a little effort, all such death traps may be eliminated and prevent totally undue losses.

During the rehabilitation work, after heavy rains in 2011, in rural areas of the Sindh province; I had observed that many children took great interest in development work and even proposed new plans for their places such as schools, playgrounds, and streets.

Children are absolutely entitled to participate in decisions that have any effect on their lives. Therefore, their concerns should be addressed especially in disaster prevention and rebuilding process.

I, recently, had a chance to speak with a group of children and share ideas about their participation in important issues. The small group discussion was organized by the Karachi based Social Research and Development Organization (SRDO).

Children were highly passionate during the discussion and they had maintained that they can be more helpful, than the adults, in planning and implementation process. They were saying, “Listen to our ideas and thoughts!”

Some of the children had maintained that they can volunteer their services for any disaster prevention program, if any government department or NGO invite them.

In recent rains, deaths of some children, especially due to drowning and electrocution, can be easily prevented if they were properly aware of basic disaster risk information.

In recent disasters, government departments, NGOs and international organizations have jointly provided commendable services to the affected population. However, we have to plan and implement a solid preparedness mechanism to avoid human miseries.

Children, either living in rural or urban areas, should have knowledge about how to respond during and after the disasters. And, involvement of children to create a wider awareness among their fellow children can help save many precious lives.

*************

Amir Murtaza is a senior researcher, analyst and writer on social development issues, especially pertaining to women, youth and children.

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