Children take centre stage in Disaster Risk Reduction

13 October, 2011
Children take centre stage in Disaster Risk Reduction

The UN today highlights the essential role played by children and young people in preparing for natural disasters, as it commemorates this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction.

The Day (IDDR) is marked annually on 13 October to celebrate and raise awareness about how people, communities and governments can do more to reduce risks posed by earthquakes, hurricanes and floods.

As part of the ‘Step up for Disaster Risk reduction’ campaign, the UN and partners are saying that children and young people need to be more closely involved in initiatives to prepare for crises.

“The majority of children feel completely cut off from any information regarding disasters,” said Margareta Wahlström, the UN’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction. “This is simply not acceptable, when we know that children and young people are among the worst affected by disaster events.” An estimated 100 million young people are affected by disasters each year, and thousands are killed and injured.

In May this year, UNISDR, along with UN and NGO partners, launched the “Children's Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction”, which states that child protection must be a priority before, during and after a disaster.

Stepping up disaster prevention and preparedness

In his message for this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned: “Vulnerability to disaster is growing faster than resilience. Over the past year, we have seen devastating floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and droughts…The message is clear: Disaster risk reduction should be an everyday concern for everybody. Let us all invest today for a safer tomorrow.”

In 2010 alone, 373 natural disasters killed more than 296,800 people, affected some 208 million others and cost nearly US$110 billion.* This year, more than 13 million people across the Horn of Africa are suffering from the most severe drought in decades, in March, a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, and millions are affected by floods in Pakistan and across Asia.

Speaking yesterday at the 3rd Shanghai International Disaster Reduction and Security Exhibition, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, said: “We live in a world of climate change, environmental degradation, food shortages, poverty and urbanisation. We must prepare better, find more effective ways to support national response efforts and do more to address the underlying causes of crises.”

Testing tsunami-warning system across Asia

Disaster preparedness was put to the test in the region most prone to natural disasters on 12 October. Almost seven years after the devastating tsunami of 2004, more than 20 countries participated on in a full-scale exercise to test the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System and Mitigation System.

This exercise, organized under the auspices of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, re-enacted the events of 26 December 2004, with a mock 9.2 magnitude earthquake off the North West coast of Sumatra (Indonesia), triggering a  virtual ocean-wide tsunami.

The simulated wave crossed the Indian Ocean in 12 hours to strike the coast of South Africa. Bulletins were issued by the new Regional Tsunami Service Providers (RTSPs) in Australia, India and Indonesia. The test also included the evacuation of coastal communities in several countries, notably India and Malaysia.**

Find out more about this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction.

Message for the International Day for Disaster Reduction by Margareta Wahlström.

* Source: Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).
** Source: UNESCO