UNISDR head, Margareta Wahlström, with the Secretary of the Philippines' Department of Education, Armin Luistro, at today's launch.
GENEVA, 04 March 2014
– The Philippines today publically committed to be a role model for safe schools and deliver a strong message to the 2015 World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015 on the importance of protecting school children and students in their education environment.
The disaster-prone nation will draw on lessons from the devastating Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013 to be a country champion for the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools, launched by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
Typhoon Haiyan destroyed or damaged almost 4,000 schools prompting the President of the Philippines to issue specific instructions on infrastructure standards for safe schools both in terms of earthquakes and typhoons.
UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström said: “Today the Philippines’ Department of Education has agreed to be an ambassador for this global programme and to implement the safe schools initiative. The Philippines experiences disasters every year and it is very encouraging to see the country commit to a long term perspective on improving school standards.”
UNISDR Champion, Philippine Senator Loren Legarda, said: “It is important to make our schools disaster-resilient to keep our children out of harm’s way. Schools must be able to withstand earthquakes, typhoons and other natural hazards.”
Introducing the initiative, Philippines Secretary for Education Armin Luistro said: “Preparing for disasters is all about people and strengthening their resilience, it is not just about structures. Our challenge is to make the safety of schools part of our daily life.”
Secretary Luistro announced that the Philippines has digitally mapped the location and student numbers of 70% of the 46,000 public schools in the country.
A UNISDR crowd sourcing application, which enables pupils, teachers and parents to self-assess a school’s physical structure, preparedness and the level of integration of disaster risk reduction in the curriculum, will provide an additional layer of information to the Philippines’ digital map.
UNISDR is coordinating action to facilitate the announcement of a follow-up programme for safe schools at the World Conference, which will be held in Sendai, Japan. This will include the principal components for safe schools, mentioned above, that are currently being developed by core partners (World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO, Save the Children and Plan International amongst others).
In 2005, the year that the Hyogo Framework for Action was agreed – the world’s first comprehensive agreement on disaster risk reduction was adopted – an estimated 17,000 schoolchildren died in the Pakistan earthquake as their schools collapsed on them. Similar events have occurred in other parts of the world, including Armenia, China, Haiti and Turkey.