Stronger disaster preparedness to protect children pushed

Published July 19, 2019, 7:07 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

As children face the highest risks of death, injury, and disease in times of emergencies, a group promoting children’s rights and welfare on Friday called for “stronger disaster preparedness” in schools as well as in communities.

Save the Children Philippines Chief Executive Officer Albert Muyot (SAVE THE CHILDREN PHILIPPINES / FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)
Save the Children Philippines Chief Executive Officer Albert Muyot (SAVE THE CHILDREN PHILIPPINES / FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

In line with this month’s celebration on Disaster Resilience month, Save the Children Philippines is for the “strengthening of disaster preparedness” in schools and communities. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) lawyer Albert Muyot said that local governments “should invest in building the resilience of children as part of climate change adaptation strategy.”

Muyot, a former undersecretary of the Department of Education (DepEd), said children’s rights to proper healthcare, access to education, and protection from violence must be “ensured at all times” – especially during emergencies. “Disasters such as earthquakes, massive flooding, and severe typhoons take a heavy toll on children’s lives, particularly those in deprived and marginalized situations,” he added.

Save the Children Philippines noted that the Philippines ranks third in the list of the 171 disaster-prone countries – next to the island-nations of Vanuatu and Toga, according to the World Risk Report of 2018. “Globally, there are 535 million children, or one in four living in countries prone to disasters,” it added.

Partnership with DepEd

The month of July has been declared “National Disaster Resilience Month” to raise awareness on the need for building resilience across national and local levels.

Given this, Save the Children Philippines has partnered with DepEd for the implementation of Education Safe from Disasters that put in place and automate a management information system for disaster preparedness in all public schools.

“Child protection and child participation should be at the core of disaster preparedness systems in schools and communities,” Muyot stressed.

The Save the Children Philippines advocated the passage of Republic Act 10821 or the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act that directs national and local government agencies to implement and sustain the comprehensive emergency program to protect children from disasters and emergencies.

The law prioritizes the protection of children, pregnant, and lactating mothers during disaster and emergency situations. It also prevents the prolonged use of schools as evacuation centers to allow children to resume classes.

Citing figures from DepEd, the group said that more than 11 million schoolchildren have been affected by major disasters from 2007 to 2012. Given this, Muyot said schools and local authorities should “integrate children’s rights to participate in developing policies that affect them, including disaster preparedness.”

Meanwhile, Save the Children Philippines also pioneered a disaster resilience program for child survivors of typhoon “Yolanda” through the Batang Empowered and Resilient Team (BERT), a team of empowered and resilient children.

The program helps children know the difference between risks and hazards at home and in schools. It also teaches them what to do before, during and after a disaster which includes bringing of essential things such as water and flashlights in the go-bag. More than 3,000 child facilitators have been trained under the BERT program which started in the Yolanda hit provinces in the Visayas.

Save the Children Philippines said that at least 6,555 children in remote areas in Mindanao who are vulnerable to disasters and the impact of armed conflict were also trained as BERT child facilitators. “One of the core principles of children’s rights is to be heard on matters that affect them including drafting disaster preparedness plans,” Muyot ended.