Petra Nemkova and officials from the United Nations and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Japan Society in New York (Photo: UN)
NEW YORK/GENEVA, 2 November 2017
– A tsunami survivor who has dedicated herself to building and supporting safe schools in disaster zones has been appointed as the UN’s first World Tsunami Awareness Advocate by Mr. Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Ms. Petra Nemcova, a well-known fashion model from the Czech Republic, was on holiday in Thailand in 2004 when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck. She survived the event with a broken pelvis but her partner died in a tragedy which took some 228,000 lives in 14 countries, including those of an estimated 9,000 tourists.
The honour was bestowed last night at the Japan Society in New York to mark World Tsunami Awareness Day which will be commemorated around the world for the second year on November 5.
Mr. Glasser said: “It is a great honour to officially recognize the work and efforts of Petra Nemcova who not only survived the Indian Ocean tsunami in Thailand in dreadful circumstances but found a way to continue and share her experience and to put her entrepreneurial spirit at the service of people affected by disasters.
“A few months after the tsunami she founded the Happy Hearts Fund which has so far rebuilt 165 safe and disaster resilient schools benefiting over 100,000 children. HHF has been helping in 10 disaster-affected countries in Peru, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Haiti, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal and USA. In addition, HHF is currently working in the US and British Virgin Islands to assess damage to schools destroyed by Hurricanes Maria and Irma.”
Ms. Nemcova said: “This is a great honour and I look forward to working as an advocate on behalf of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction to raise awareness of tsunami risk around the world. It is one of the least understood natural hazards globally. Tsunamis are one of the least understood natural hazards and we need to constantly remind people that however rare, it is the deadliest of all natural hazards when it strikes. Through education we can reduce the impact of tsunamis and all natural hazards around the world.”