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UN Stresses Education Over Natural Disasters

UN Stresses Education Of Schoolchildren As Key To Reducing Impact Of Natural Disasters

New York, Oct 11 2006 11:00AM

With natural disasters claiming more than 600,000 lives and affecting more than 2.4 billion people over the last decade, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for educating schoolchildren on ways to prepare for such hazards and thus reduce the death toll and damage that they cause.

“Children are especially vulnerable to the threats posed by natural hazards,” he said in a message on the International Day for Disaster Reduction. “At the same time, they can be powerful agents of change, provided they are well armed with knowledge about how to prepare in advance, how to act on warnings and how to reduce risk at home and in their communities.

“It is essential, therefore, to make disaster-risk education a component of national school curricula, and to ensure that children understand how natural hazards interact with the environment,” he added, noting that natural disasters claim their highest toll in developing countries, setting back development and deepening poverty for millions.

The theme of this year’s observance is “Disaster Risk Reduction Begins at School.”

“Young people should also be included in community risk-mapping exercises, and have opportunities to share experiences and best practices with others, including their peers. School buildings themselves should be fortified, so that they can better withstand the forces of nature,” Mr. Annan said.

“On this International Day for Disaster Reduction, I call on Governments and all relevant actors – from teachers to businesses to civil society – to respond to the needs of children and all other vulnerable populations in hazard-prone areas.”

The UN has put disaster risk reduction on the front burner ever since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, when experts said scores of thousands of the more than 200,000 dead could have been saved if early warning systems had existed and allowed them to escape to higher ground in the hours between the earthquake that triggered the giant waves and their landfall.

Since then it has played a major role in developing early warning systems, not only for the Indian Ocean but other vulnerable areas as well, based on quake and tidal sensors, alarm networks ranging from radio to cell phones and text-messaging, and disaster preparedness training to ensure timely evacuation of vulnerable coastal areas.

The world organization also played a major role in relief and recovery operations in Pakistan after last year’s devastating earthquake, which killed more than 73,000 people, injured over 70,000 others and left hundreds of thousand homeless. At the time the UN stressed the urgency of constructing quake-proof buildings, especially schools.
The Day was marked at the UN’s main Asia headquarters in Bangkok with the handover of field libraries – blue trunks comprising 100 publications on disaster risk management for use by communities, governments, disaster reduction practitioners, students and non-government organizations (NGOs).

At UN Headquarters in New York yesterday, top UN emergency relief officials said that although progress had been made more needs to be done to improve efforts to deal with natural hazards and their impact on hundreds of millions of people.

Ends

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