Children are more vulnerable to climate disasters
UNICEF, a UN organization that focuses on children issues, said that climate impacts could threaten people including children. In one of their reports, it was recorded that more than 800 children under 5 years-old died from diarrhea due to lack of water. It is predicted that in 2040, 600 million children will live with extreme water crises. According to the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), 60-70% of disaster victims are women, children, and the elderly. In 2018, the victims died and lost 4,231 lives. With the percentage mentioned, it means more than 2,500 victims were women, children and the elderly. BNPB also stated that women and children had a 14 times greater risk of not surviving compared to adult men during a disaster.
Children are part of vulnerable groups that heavily affected by climate impacts, especially disasters. They face disasters with different capacities than adults. Not only the ability to save themselves during a disaster, but also the ability to respond and recover after a disaster. Children tend to be physically weaker and psychologically unstable. Rapid occurrence of disasters, destroyed homes, family members that become victims, those things can be a very traumatic and devastating experience for them. In the context of long-term climate impacts, children are also threatened by disease outbreaks and disruption of access to resources such as clean water and food.
Climate and disaster education for children
Children’s knowledge in the climate and disaster field is a necessity in Indonesia. Ignorance of those threatening issues will cause confusion and panic in children when faced with unwanted situations. A large number of child victims during disasters shows the urgency of education and capacity building for children in resilience.
Educational efforts need to emerge at the family and school level, the main source of knowledge for children. Parents need to equip themselves and their children with practical information on things that should be done in the event of disasters. Also, it is important for families to learn about what can be done to reduce disaster risk and prevent worse impacts of future climate. Access to knowledge is very wide-open in this digital era which makes it helpful for parents to learn and educate their children about things that are not commonly discussed in everyday life.
Moreover, school plays a huge role in climate and disaster education. In addition to conceptual knowledge, practical activities such as simulations also need to be carried out to provide hands-on experience especially for schools with a high risk of disasters. With this necessity, teachers and school principals must strengthen their capacity to have adequate knowledge of climate and disaster.
USAID Adaptasi Perubahan Iklim dan Ketangguhan (APIK) realizes the importance of this need and has participated in various climate and disaster education efforts for school-age children. In 2019, APIK continued to support the Local Disaster Management Agency (BPBD) in three regions, East Java, Southeast Sulawesi, and Maluku in campaigns and disaster simulations involving school children. The simulations were part of the National Disaster Preparedness Day (HKBN), commemorated on April 26. School students in various places such as Kendari City, South Konawe District, Malang District, and Ambon City, received firsthand experience in the practice of evacuation and disaster emergency response. In particular, Doni Monardo, Head of BNPB, attended the declaration of ‘Protect Nature’ ceremony in Ambon and did trees planting activity together with hundreds of school students and teachers.
In April 2019, APIK facilitated participatory disaster risk assessment at the Madrasah Tsanawiyah Negeri (MTsN – equal with Junior High School) 04 of Siri Sori Islam, Central Maluku, which is vulnerable to flooding, landslides and whirling wind. This process succeeded in building awareness of teachers and students on disaster risk and climate impacts. MTsN 04 Negeri Siri Sori Islam now has a map on climate disaster vulnerability and risk where the students were involved in the preparation. Their knowledge of disasters that have occurred in the school was successfully poured in this process. They also discussed the climate adaptation actions that can be done to improve the resilience of the school community.
Still in the same year, APIK supported the BPBD Malang District earlier in February 2019 to introduce disaster issues at Pujon Elementary School 2 and Kalisongo Elementary School 2 which are prone to landslides caused by high intensity of rainfall. This learning activity was done through fun activities for children such as simulations, games, and screenings of films about natural disasters. APIK appealed to schools regarding the importance of evacuation routes and contingency plans. “I hope this kind of activity can make students living in disaster-prone areas like Malang have the knowledge of disaster risk reduction from an early age,” said Sadono Irawan, Head of the Prevention Section of BPBD Malang District.
Investing in a more resilient future
Through various activities that target children at school, they now have a better understanding of types of disaster threats in their homes. Besides, the teachers have a better understanding of climate and disaster issues, including recognizing resilience actions that can be done. Students and teachers are now more familiar and can use the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) product and increases the access to weather and climate information services. This worthy change certainly will not happen without their enthusiasm and willingness to learn things they don’t get every single day. With more exposure to climate and disaster knowledge, the teachers have more motivation to include these aspects within teaching and learning activities for the sake of a more resilient future generation.
Knowledge and awareness are the first steps for real action. Children who are equipped with sufficient knowledge in the field of climate and disaster can become agents of change in the community. It makes them more aware of what to do when a disaster strikes and what can be done to reduce the risk. Educated children can also share with family and friends, helping those who are less familiar with climate and disaster information. Exposing children to climate and disaster knowledge is not intending to make them to live in fear, but to teach them to be more prepared, prevent things to get worse, and create opportunities for a better change in the future.
Long-term climate impacts are threatening the children well-being, risking them to struggle to live in an ideal environment. The adult groups should take real actions in climate mitigation and adaptation to avoid unwanted nightmares for the future generation. Disasters often happen quickly and with little warning. Therefore, disaster preparedness and climate awareness since an early age are very essential to create a more resilient future.
Prepared for National Children Day 2019
(Author: Nyoman Prayoga, Communications Specialist: Knowledge Management and Reporting USAID APIK)
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