Why consider children in disaster risk reduction?
Recently I happened to hit a wonderful game site called “Stop Disasters” – it’s a simple simulation game by UNISDR for children explaining how important it is for our children to be educated about disasters and their human, social and economic impacts. The game simply tell the children that disasters take life, they destroy economy and livelihoods of rich and poor alike and yet, children can help save lives by acting responsibly towards their environment. Children are asked to play a role to plan a safe environment for their population. Amazing was the part of instructions that said “with your help we can reduce human, physical and financial costs by understanding the risks and applying the best methods of prevention and mitigation”! Is this game really for children, and are the children able to understand the terminology the game uses, rather are most of us as adults aware of such complicated planning techniques? Or are we as media trained to report impact of disasters in terms these kids play games abroad?
The general consensus would be “what role do children play in disaster mitigation and planning any way” – sadly though, this is the general perception we have in Pakistan. Experts tell us Disaster Risk Reduction is all about stronger building codes, best land usage planning, better warning systems, evacuation plans and environmental management. What we forget here is above all these vital elements education and training of our children and our younger generation is the long term investment required for effective Disaster Management in vulnerable countries. The aim of introducing disaster risk reduction and climate friendly curriculum in schools is not only to train children, but to introduce behavior change in next generation to act responsibly and be environment friendly.
Now, that the rains have started pouring, every day we see examples like Nala Lai full of plastic bags soaring with garbage which is a huge health hazard and major source of blockade during monsoon season. That’s example of human behavior causing health hazards and overall impacting the daily life routine. Usually we see people complaining about government inefficiency forgetting about our own role in creating these hazards that become a disaster later. Education is the key to making communities more aware about their actions leading to high risk and harm in face of a natural disaster. International community is working to promote a global culture of resilience by promoting disaster risk reduction curriculum at school level so that knowledge and education make people able to be more aware about their risks so that they themselves can reduce their vulnerability to harm by adopting precautionary measures. Pakistan remains highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters, it’s time to take communities on board for collective response as we know that human habitation and living habits can make life miserable in face of disasters. While we need planning and mitigation at policy level, which the disaster management system is doing well, however, there is a lot to do at the community level for an all inclusive approach to be better prepared.
While Pakistan remains vulnerable, one after another disaster will affect the resilience of the government and no government will be able to provide relief and rescue all the time, nor will the international community come to rescue as we have seen donor fatigue in various parts of the world. That’s why knowing the Mother Nature’s changing moods in past and it’s human, social and economic impacts, the world now promotes the concept of prevention and mitigation in light of making communities resilient through information, and education is the tool for Pakistan that would make a more resilient generation for times to come.