These are the questions that many parents in the Philippines, one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, have to ask themselves most days. The Philippines was fourth in the world among countries hit by the highest number of disasters over the past 20 years, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Disasters have huge implications for children’s well-being and education. Often children lose everything – their homes, their families, and even their lives. Children are also left vulnerable to many other dangers, from disease and malnutrition to violence and exploitation.
To protect and prepare children against future disasters, Plan International developed the Safe Schools Global Programme to prepare children for disasters and teach them the life-saving skills they need to survive. “As early as possible, we have to prepare our children so they know how to protect themselves and adapt to whatever shocking and stressful situation is caused by a disaster,” explains Arnold Peca, a father of three and Plan International’s Safe School project manager.
Peca encourages parents to learn more about the risks at their children’s schools - its evacuation and education continuity plans - and assess how safe the location of the school is in terms of disaster hazards such as landslides and flood zones close to school facilities.
“As parents, our children are always our greatest concern especially when they are away from us, even if they are just in school. To reduce the worry, we have to include teachers in the preparedness plans at schools. This is to ensure the safety and protection of our children when a crisis happens.” Peca says, adding:
“Parents have a big role to play in ensuring that their children are safe from harm and injury while at school. School safety is not just the role of teachers and school workers, it takes a whole community to build a safe school that can withstand all forms of disasters. To have a resilient community, children should be consulted and involved in the process.”
In Daram, one of the islands in Samar that is particularly prone to typhoons and where access to basic services is limited, children learnt basic first aid skills, fire prevention and disaster preparedness skills at the first Children’s Disaster Preparedness Camp held in May 2017.
If we were not trained, I wouldn’t know what to do if one of my classmates was injured. We might panic
“With this training, I am confident that I can survive any disaster that might happen. I now know what to do and how to prepare before, during and after an emergency. If we were not trained, I wouldn’t know what to do if one of my classmates was injured. We might panic,” says Chay, 17, one of the more than 200 children and young people who attended the three-day camp.
While at the camp, the children and young people also had the opportunity to ask their teachers and the mayor to help protect children in the community by investing in building disaster-proof schools. “The training prepares us for a crisis and teaches us how to save ourselves and others but we need the support of our mayor to help us build classrooms and school buildings that can survive a strong typhoon.” Chay says.
Plan International worked in partnership with the Department of Education, Bureau of Fire Protection, Red Cross and other local partners to facilitate the training camp. Teachers were also invited and trained on basic life support.
“We want this generation of children to the have the right knowledge, skills and attitude to respond to all forms of emergency situations such as landslides, floods and earthquakes, especially now that the impact of climate change is starting to be felt.” Peca says. ENDS
By Mai Zamora, Plan International Philippines