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Keeping children safe in Timor-Leste

A joint Plan International and Unicef project has been busy training children, teachers and communities in 15 villages to protect themselves from the floods, landslides and high winds that are common in rural Timor-Leste.

The Vice Minister of Education Dolce Soares Addresses Children Who Have Taken Part in Plan International's Disaster Preparedness Programme

On a bright morning in the picturesque village Seloi Malere of Aileu Vila the Vice Minister for Education, representatives from the Municipal Office of Education, Ministry of Social Solidarity and the municipality gathered to hear the project results.

The nine month pilot supported more than 4,500 children in 15 schools to learn about disaster preparedness via workshops and evacuation simulations.

Plan International will continue projects in 20 schools helping to keep children informed and safe before, during and after disasters

175m children globally are affected by climate related disasters every year. Girls and boys are especially vulnerable in disasters, but since the training an additional 61% of students and 63% of teachers reported their schools have taken action to prepare for, mitigate and prevent effects of natural disasters.

Vice Minister of Education, Dulce Soares, spontaneously opened her speech by asking a teacher and students among the participants to reflect what they learned from their training. A local teacher said he’s clear where to go when there’s a risk from a natural disaster. Students told the Minister they could now differentiate whether an area was secure or not, that they should stay in the school and not stand under trees in heavy winds.

A student shares her thoughts during the event

Students also said they were familiar with the colour coding used to signify different levels of risk – green - normal, yellow - be careful and red - don’t cross.

The event included a trip to a local river to see signage installed to show when it’s safe or dangerous to cross - a place where school children had practiced flood warning procedures as part of the school disaster risk reduction project.

As a country Timor-Leste is prone to natural disasters. And this year, with 12% of the Timorese population hit by drought and food shortages due to the effects of El Nino – a weather event characterised by delayed and reduced rainfall that has severe implications that causes water and food shortages – disaster preparedness training is especially timely.

Plan International Timor-Leste Country Director, Terence McCaughan pledged that ‘Plan International will continue projects in 20 schools in Aileu and Ainaro helping to keep children informed and safe before, during and after disasters.’

Learn more about Plan International's work in Timor-Leste.