By Berta Acero
CAIRO, 23 October 2011
- UNISDR, the UN's disaster risk reduction office, in Egypt joined events around the world to celebrate the International Day for Disaster Reduction, 13 October, with the theme of recognizing the role of children and young people as partners in disaster risk reduction.
Through its Regional Office for Arab States in Egypt, UNISDR organized a workshop for students of all different age groups from El Manarat. The event included promoting disaster risk reduction (DRR) in schools, understanding the “making hospitals and schools safer” campaign, and engaging the students in discussions and questions about DRR.
“This year we are recognizing the importance of youth and children becoming partners in disaster risk reduction. As children and youth are the most vulnerable to disasters, it is essential to provide them with the necessary preparedness tools. This way they will be prepared as they become leaders of the future in their communities”, said Ragy Saro from UNISDR's office in Egypt who organized the event in Cairo.
Highlighting the important role of children and young people in disaster preparedness and reduction, Amjad Abbashar, the head of UNISDR’s regional office in Cairo said, “When that powerful earthquake rocked eastern Japan in March of this year, a child in a nearby school quickly opened the window to help evacuate his classmates. After the earth stopped shaking, the children ran to higher ground and to safety. Five minutes later their school was swept away by the resulting Tsunami. The students knew what needed to be done.”
“As we consider this year’s IDDR slogan, “STEP UP for disaster Reduction” targeting the young and the children we have to also consider the special meaning it has for the Arab region,” added Mr. Abbashar.
“By asking youth and children to “step up for disaster risk reduction” we are targeting the leaders, the engineers, the planners and the masses of tomorrow to protect our future.”
Arab countries are not immune to disasters. In fact, this region is exposed to a number of hazards, ranging from droughts, floods, cyclones, landslides and earthquakes as well as vulnerability to climate change related risks such as storm surges and sea level rise. Since 1980 more than 37 million Arab people were affected by disasters and some 20 billion dollars in economic losses were recorded. Rapid urbanization, environmental degradation, water scarcity, changing demography and migration trends are further amplifying levels of vulnerability in the Arab region.
Population in the Arab region has tripled since 1970 from 128 million to 359 million. Importantly, the majority of this population, 56 percent, is under the age of 25.
Other countries in the Arab region that celebrated the 2011 International Day for Disaster Reduction includes Palestine, Lebanon, Comoros, Algeria, Mauritania, Algeria, and Dubai. Activities included seminars, schools events, drills and sensitization activities on disaster risk reduction.