GENEVA, 14 October 2011
– Some 80 plus countries commemorated the UN International Disaster Reduction Day (IDDR 11) yesterday. “This welcome groundswell of support concretely demonstrates the growing importance and awareness of risk reduction around the world,” said UNISDR Chief Margareta Wahlström today.
So far some 100 events have been reported from countries in Africa, the Americas, the Arab states, the Asia Pacific region and Europe. The activities yesterday by and large focused on the theme of IDDR 11 “Step up for Disaster Risk Reduction” with the focus on children and young people as partners in DRR.
Wahlström is currently in Myanmar where the Government announced its intention to ensure that schools and health centres countrywide are better prepared for the impact of disasters. Sixty percent of the country’s 41,000 schools will be overhauled to ensure that they are less vulnerable to damage caused by floods, cyclones, or earthquakes. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) will also be mainstreamed in school curricula across the country while 70 percent of the country’s 7,229 rural health centres will be renovated to make them more disaster resilient.
Wahlström said, “The reports that are still coming in about the innovative variety of awareness raising activities around the world send a strong signal that risk reduction is no longer just the concern of governments but now an issue over which communities are taking ownership.
“And what is even more encouraging is the way in which children, young people and adults have embraced the call to build partnerships to create disaster resilient communities. This is the type of local/community action we have advocated and it’s really great to see it taking shape so substantively”.
UNISDR estimates that every year over 100 million young people including children, are affected by disasters.
At events around the world yesterday UNISDR, its 10 global offices and its partners UNICEF, Plan, Save the Children and World Vision, used the occasion of IDDR 11 to promote the new Children’s Charter for Disaster Risk Reduction which was developed through consultations with more than 600 children in 21 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The Charter which calls for safe schools, uninterrupted education, and prioritization of child protection among other key issues was endorsed yesterday evening by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director General of the United Nations Office in Geneva at UNISDR’s reception to commemorate IDDR in Switzerland. Members of Geneva’s international community, Pierre Maudet, Geneva’s Mayor, and members of the private sector were present at the reception.
Speaking on behalf of UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström at the reception, Helena Molin Valdes, Director a.i. said “this year’s call for everyone to ‘Step Up for Disaster Risk Reduction is also a call to get beyond perceptions of children as passive and subordinate and ensure they are active participants in decision-making and risk reduction activities.”
Following a video Message from André Brent Bryle Soon and Tricia Mae Plenos of San Francisco in the Philippines which presented a strong case for the participation of children in DRR, Charlotte Balfour-Poole, Education in Emergencies Adviser for Save the Children UK said, “Young people have told us loudly and clearly what we should be doing … child centred DRR must become a sustainable and effective vehicle of change”. She also recommended that all agencies should start including children and young people in their programming
Dermot Carty, UNICEF’s Deputy Director of Emergency Programmes, said, “Children and young people are more than half the world’s population and must be at the forefront for the future and at the centre of DRR as agents of change”.