When the annual monsoon rains come, 14-year-old Atik worries.
As the deputy chief of the children’s council in her home village of Dowan, in Indonesia’s Central Java province she knows,” When it rains heavily for hours, it seems that soil in some parts of this village will shift and cause a landslide.”
When the children’s council presented their hazard map findings to the Dowan village disaster preparedness team, Atik was not sure how they would be received.
“In the beginning we were a bit shy and afraid to share our opinions,” she said. “We thought that if we made mistakes, the adults would be angry at us or would tease us.”
Beyond just listening, the adults enlisted the children as partners in drafting the village disaster contingency plan, giving children active post-emergency roles. Atik, for example, will support children at the education post and collect clothes for affected people.
The children of Dowan are now contributing to the drafting of a decree on forest conservation. “We need to find a solution to ensure that landslides will no longer occur in my village, so that during the rainy season, I can sleep and study in peace,” said 17-year-old Iman Yasak.
Thanks in part to the support of Plan International, the village of Dowan is a role model in terms of taking on board the concerns of children about protecting community infrastructure from natural hazards. The children want to be able to sleep soundly and have an uninterrupted education despite the ferocity of the monsoons.
Indonesia was struck by ten natural disasters last year and the Government has made significant strides in improving disaster management and risk reduction across the country since the tragedy of the 2004 Asian tsunami.
It is also responding to the needs of remote village communities like Dowan where it has decided to invest more in disaster risk reduction at the local level. It has launched a programme, “Disaster Resilient Villages” to assist village communities to identify risks and take necessary measures to minimize future damage and loss from disasters.
A key priority identified in the Children’s Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction which is a major focus for this year’s International Disaster Reduction Day was children’s concern that community infrastructure must be safe, and relief and reconstruction must help reduce future risk.
The Charter, developed from interviews with over 600 children in 21 disaster-prone countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, asserts that children are sensitive to the erosion of development in their communities and, just like in Dowan, they want key infrastructure in their communities protected from landslides and other threats.