International Day for Disaster Reduction 2011
Children and youth play active role in preventing disasters
Cologne. Reducing the risk of natural disasters is no longer a matter exclusively for grown-ups. On 13 October, International Day for Disaster Reduction, children and teenagers are taking the centre stage. In the Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) projects conducted by Malteser International, the relief service of the Order of Malta for worldwide humanitarian aid, children and youth play an essential role to help keep their communities safe.
In Vietnam, one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, Malteser International works with coastal villagers to prepare them for the frequent tropical storms which lead to floods almost every year. In those villages, DRR begins in school – more than 1,000 children have participated in Malteser International’s school workshops, where thy learn to identify risks and what to do in case of evacuation, and work together with their classmates and teachers to come up with a plan of action.
“In the past, children were considered a group that needed to be taken care of passively,” says Nguyen Thi Thuy Nga, Malteser International’s programme coordinator in Vietnam. “In our project, they got to participate actively, so their awareness increased. They now know that they are able to take important steps before, during, and after floods and storms, including preventing diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene.”
Older children and teenagers are especially valuable partners in Malteser International’s efforts to implement DRR measures in the villages. “Teenagers and young adults are the main members of the villages’ rescue teams, and are sometimes in the first-aid teams as well,” says Nguyen. “They participate in capacity building, listen to the villagers to find out what their difficulties and vulnerabilities are, and suggest improvements to support their community.”
Earlier this year, 170 villagers, trained volunteers, village leaders and government officials in Truong Dinh, on Vietnam’s south-central coast, participated in a community drill organised by Malteser International, where they were able to put their skills to the test. The simulation of an approaching storm and the ensuing flood included boats and trucks for evacuating the weak and the injured, rescuing unconscious victims from the waters and performing first aid, providing food and medicine to the affected families, and even conducting educational sessions on diarrhoea prevention and water treatment.
“During the drill, the children and youth did not only act as observers or victims”, explains Cordula Wasser, Malteser International’s senior desk officer for Vietnam. “They also participated and helped by putting what they learned in school into practice.”
From 2009 to 2011, Malteser International with financial support from the German Federal Foreign Office worked in 13 Vietnamese villages to improve their ability to respond to natural disasters, instructing 2113 families in community-based DRR and training 338 volunteers in first aid and search and rescue skills. The organisation has been active in Vietnam since 1966.
DRR is also an important component of Malteser International’s work in eight other countries, including Haiti, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and, more recently, Japan.
Attention editors: Cordula Wasser, Malteser International’s senior desk officer for Vietnam, is available for interviews. Contact through Malteser International’s headquarters at +49 (0) 221 98 22-155.
Photos from Vietnam and a short video showing a community drill are available in our media library.
Malteser International is the worldwide relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta for humanitarian aid. The organisation provides aid in about 100 projects in more than 20 countries without distinction of religion, race or political persuasion. Christian values and the humanitarian principles of impartiality and independence are the foundation of its work. For further information: www.malteser-international.org and www.orderofmalta.int
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